Programmed cell death plays an essential role in the normal embryonic development of Drosophila melanogaster. One region of the embryo where cell death occurs, but has not been studied in detail, is the abdominal epidermis. Because cell death is a fleeting process, we have used time-lapse, fluorescence microscopy to map epidermal apoptosis throughout embryonic development. Cell death occurs in a stereotypically striped pattern near both sides of the segment border and to a lesser extent in the middle of the segment. This map of wild-type cell death was used to determine how cell death patterns change in response to genetic perturbations that affect epidermal patterning. Previous studies have suggested that segment polarity mutant phenotypes are partially the result of increased cell death. Mutations in wingless, armadillo, and gooseberry led to dramatic increases in apoptosis in the anterior of the segment while a naked mutation resulted in a dramatic increase in the death of engrailed cells in the posterior of the segment. These results show that segment polarity gene expression is necessary for the survival of specific rows of epidermal cells and may provide insight into the establishment of the wild-type epidermal cell death pattern.