Naturally occurring heat shock (HS) during pupation induces abnormal wing development in Drosophila; we examined factors affecting the severity of this induction. The proportion of HS-surviving adults with abnormal wings varied with HS duration and intensity, and with the pupal age or stage at HS administration. Pretreatment (PT), mild hyperthermia delivered before HS, usually protected development against HS. Gradual heating resembling natural thermal regimes also protected wing development against thermal disruption. Because of the roles of the wings in flight and courtship and in view of natural thermal regimes that Drosophila experience, both HS-induction of wing abnormalities and its abatement by PT may have marked effects on Drosophila fitness in nature. Because PT is associated with expression of heat-inducible molecular chaperones such as Hsp70 in Drosophila, we compared thermal disruption of wing development among hsp70 mutants as well as among strains naturally varying in Hsp70 levels. Contrary to expectations, lines or strains with increased Hsp70 levels were no more resistant to HS-disruption of wing development than counterparts with lower Hsp70 levels. In fact, wing development was more resistant to HS in hsp70 deletion strains than control strains. We suggest that, while high Hsp70 levels may aid cells in surviving hyperthermia, high levels may also overly stimulate or inhibit numerous signalling pathways involved in cell proliferation, maturation and programmed death, resulting in developmental failure.