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Despite considerable progress in recent decades in dissecting the genetic causes of natural morphological variation, there is limited understanding of how variation within species ultimately contributes to species differences. We have studied patterning of the non-sensory hairs, commonly known as "trichomes," on the dorsal cuticle of first-instar larvae of Drosophila. Most Drosophila species produce a dense lawn of dorsal trichomes, but a subset of these trichomes were lost in D. sechellia and D. ezoana due entirely to regulatory evolution of the shavenbaby (svb) gene. Here, we describe intraspecific variation in dorsal trichome patterns of first-instar larvae of D. virilis that is similar to the trichome pattern variation identified previously between species. We found that a single large effect QTL, which includes svb, explains most of the trichome number difference between two D. virilis strains and that svb expression correlates with the trichome difference between strains. This QTL does not explain the entire difference between strains, implying that additional loci contribute to variation in trichome numbers. Thus, the genetic architecture of intraspecific variation exhibits similarities and differences with interspecific variation that may reflect differences in long-term and short-term evolutionary processes.