Significant progress has been made over recent years in defining the normal progression and regulation of autophagy, particularly in cultured mammalian cells and yeast model systems. However, apart from a few notable exceptions, our understanding of the physiological roles of autophagy has lagged behind these advances, and identification of components and features of autophagy unique to higher eukaryotes also remains a challenge. In this review we describe recent insights into the roles and control mechanisms of autophagy gained from in vivo studies in Drosophila. We focus on potential roles of autophagy in controlling cell growth and death, and describe how the regulation of autophagy has evolved to include metazoan-specific signaling pathways. We discuss genetic screening approaches that are being used to identify novel regulators and effectors of autophagy, and speculate about areas of research in this system likely to bear fruit in future studies.