The molecular basis of programmed cell death (PCD) of neurons during early metamorphic development of the central nervous system (CNS) in Drosophila melanogaster are largely unknown, in part owing to the lack of appropriate model systems. Here, we provide evidence showing that a group of neurons (vCrz) that express neuropeptide Corazonin (Crz) gene in the ventral nerve cord of the larval CNS undergo programmed death within 6 hours of the onset of metamorphosis. The death was prevented by targeted expression of caspase inhibitor p35, suggesting that these larval neurons are eliminated via a caspase-dependent pathway. Genetic and transgenic disruptions of ecdysone signal transduction involving ecdysone receptor-B (EcR-B) isoforms suppressed vCrz death, whereas transgenic re-introduction of either EcR-B1 or EcR-B2 isoform into the EcR-B-null mutant resumed normal death. Expression of reaper in vCrz neurons and suppression of vCrz-cell death in a reaper-null mutant suggest that reaper functions are required for the death, while no apparent role was found for hid or grim as a death promoter. Our data further suggest that diap1 does not play a role as a central regulator of the PCD of vCrz neurons. Significant delay of vCrz-cell death was observed in mutants that lack dronc or dark functions, indicating that formation of an apoptosome is necessary, but not sufficient, for timely execution of the death. These results suggest that activated ecdysone signaling determines precise developmental timing of the neuronal degeneration during early metamorphosis, and that subsequent reaper-mediated caspase activation occurs through a novel DIAP1-independent pathway.