In most strains of Caenorhabditis elegans with a low copy number of Tc1 transposable elements, germline transposition is rare or undetectable. We have observed low-level Tc1 transposition in the genome of the C. elegans var. Bristol strain KR579 (unc-13[e51]) resulting in an increase in Tc1 copy number and subsequent mutator activity. Examination of genomic blots from KR579 and KR579-derived strains revealed that more Tc1-hybridizing bands were present than in other Bristol strains. A novel Tc1-hybridizing fragment was cloned from a KR579-derived strain. Unique sequence DNA flanking the Tc1 element identified a 1.6 kb restriction fragment length difference between the KR579 and N2 strains consistent with a Tc1 insertion at a new genomic site. The site of insertion of this Tc1 was sequenced and is similar to the published Tc1 insertion site consensus sequence. Several isolates of KR579 were established and maintained on plates for a period of 3 years in order to determine if Tc1 copy number would continue to increase. In one isolate, KR1787, a further increase in Tc1 copy number was observed. Examination of the KR1787 strain has shown that it also exhibits mutator activity as assayed by the spontaneous mutation frequency at the unc-22 (twitcher) locus. The KR579 strain differs from most low copy number strains in that it exhibits low-level transposition which has developed into mutator activity.