The bacteria in the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster of different life stages was quantified by 454 pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA gene amplicons. The sequence reads were dominated by 5 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) at ≤ 97% sequence identity that could be assigned to Acetobacter pomorum, A. tropicalis, Lactobacillus brevis, L. fructivorans and L. plantarum. The saturated rarefaction curves and species richness indices indicated that the sampling (85 000–159 000 reads per sample) was comprehensive. Parallel diagnostic PCR assays revealed only minor variation in the complement of the five bacterial species across individual insects and three D. melanogaster strains. Other gut-associated bacteria included 6 OTUs with low %ID to previously reported sequences, raising the possibility that they represent novel taxa within the genera Acetobacter and Lactobacillus. A developmental change in the most abundant species, from L. fructivorans in young adults to A. pomorum in aged adults was identified; changes in gut oxygen tension or immune system function might account for this effect. Host immune responses and disturbance may also contribute to the low bacterial diversity in the Drosophila gut habitat.