Polydnaviruses are unique symbiotic viruses that are replicated in the calyx cells of the ovary of some parasitic wasps. They have a segmented genome of circular double-stranded DNA and are injected along with the wasp's egg into the host, where they are essential for successful parasitism. Polydnaviruses replicate from integrated proviral DNA, and after excision of viral segments, flanking DNA is rejoined. Little is known about ovarian morphogenesis, the mode of amplification of the viral DNA and the involvement of ecdysteroids. Here we have analysed these parameters in the course of pupal-adult development in the braconid wasp Chelonus inanitus. Immediately after pupation, ovarian cells proliferated and calyx cells began to differentiate; at this stage ecdysteroids, in particular 20-hydroxyecdysone, were highest. Thereafter, calyx cells began to increase in size and DNA content and eventually became gigantic. Amplification of non-viral DNA (actin) and viral DNA in its integrated and excised form and of corresponding rejoined flanking regions was measured by quantitative real-time PCR. In the early phase of calyx cell differentiation, copy numbers of actin and integrated viral DNA increased to a similar extent. This, along with the increase in nuclear volume and DNA content in the absence of extensive cell proliferation, suggested polyploidization of the early stage calyx cells. In the following phase, integrated viral DNA was selectively and intensively amplified and eventually excised and circularized. As copy numbers of excised circular viral DNA and rejoined flanking DNA reached similarly high levels, excised viral DNA appeared not to replicate. After adult eclosion, amplification of viral DNA declined.