It is recognized that a stable number of transposable element (TE) copies per genome is maintained in natural populations of D. melanogaster as a result of the dynamic equilibrium between transposition to new sites and natural selection eliminating copies. The force of natural selection opposing TE multiplication is partly relaxed in inbred laboratory lines of flies. The average rate of TE transposition is from 2.6 x 10(-4) to 5.0 x 10(-4) per copy per generation, and the average rate of excision is at least two orders of magnitude lower; therefore inbred lines accumulate increasing numbers of copies with time. Correlations between the rate of transposition and TE copy number have been determined for copia, Doc, roo, and 412 and found to be either zero or positive. Because the rate of transposition is not a decreasing function of TE copy number, TE accumulation in inbred lines is self-accelerating. Transpositions cause a substantial fraction of mutations in D. melanogaster, therefore the mutation rate should increase with time in laboratory lines of this species. Inferences about the properties of spontaneous mutations from studies of mutation accumulation in laboratory lines should be reevaluated, because they are based on the assumption of a constant mutation rate.