Extensive programmed cell death occurs in the female germline of many species ranging from C. elegans to humans. One purpose for germline apoptosis is to remove defective cells unable to develop into fertile eggs. In addition, recent work suggests that the death of specific germline cells may also play a vital role by providing essential nutrients to the surviving oocytes. In Drosophila, the genetic control of germline apoptosis and the proteins that carry out the death sentences are beginning to emerge from studies of female sterile mutations. These studies suggest that the morphological changes that occur during the late stages of Drosophila oogenesis may be initiated and driven by a modified form of programmed cell death.