Phagocytosis is an evolutionarily conserved mechanism that plays a key role in both host defence and tissue homeostasis in multicellular organisms. A range of surface receptors expressed on different cell types allow discriminating between self and non-self (or altered) material, thus enabling phagocytosis of pathogens and apoptotic cells. The phagocytosis process can be divided into four main steps: 1) binding of the phagocyte to the target particle, 2) particle internalization and phagosome formation, through remodelling of the plasma membrane, 3) phagosome maturation, and 4) particle destruction in the phagolysosome. In this review, we describe our present knowledge on phagocytosis in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, assessing each of the key steps involved in engulfment of both apoptotic cells and bacteria. We also assess the physiological role of phagocytosis in host defence, development and tissue homeostasis.