The material required to ensure successful embryogenesis in the onion fly (Delia antiqua) and the cabbage root fly (Delia radicum) (Diptera, Anthomyiidae) is supplied by 15 nurse cells, while the oocyte chromosomes enter a quiescent stage during prophase I of meiosis. This level of transcription is achieved by the polyploidization of the nurse cell DNA. Elongate polytene chromosomes form in both species, but lack the banding and conspicuous puffing commonly seen in other dipteran tissues. The polytene chromosomes contract until they finally appear as small, densely staining spheres. These fragment into large numbers of endochromosomes that are much smaller than their mitotic counterparts, which then despiralize, resulting in the flocculate appearance of the nurse cell nucleus. Photodensitometry revealed a gradient of DNA values between nurse cells near the oocytes and those further away. Final DNA values 1000 times the haploid level were recorded in the nurse cell nearest to the oocyte compared with 336 times the C-value in the most distal cell. At lower temperatures (< 10 degrees C), the polytene chromosomes become banded and longer. None of the onion flies kept in these conditions produced viable eggs, though there was some reproductive success among the cabbage root flies.