Increased reproduction is frequently associated with a reduction in longevity in a variety of organisms. Traditional explanations of this ‘cost of reproduction’ suggest that trade-offs between reproduction and longevity should be obligate. However, it is possible to uncouple the two traits in model organisms. Recently, it has been suggested that reproduction and longevity are linked by molecular signals produced by specific reproductive tissues. For example, in Caenorhabditis elegans, lifespan is extended in worms that lack a proliferating germ line, but which possess somatic gonad tissue, suggesting that these tissues are the sources of signals that mediate lifespan. In this study, we tested for evidence of such gonadal signals in Drosophila melanogaster. We ablated the germ line using two maternal effect mutations: germ cell-less and tudor. Both mutations result in flies that lack a proliferating germ line but that possess a somatic gonad. In contrast to the findings from C. elegans, we found that germ line ablated females had reduced longevity relative to controls and that the removal of the germ line led to an over-proliferation of the somatic stem cells in the germarium. Our results contrast with the widely held view that it is downstream reproductive processes such as the production and/or laying of eggs that are costly to females. In males, germ line ablation caused either no difference, or a slight extension, in longevity relative to controls. Our results indicate that early acting, upstream reproductive enabling processes are likely to be important in determining reproductive costs. In addition, we suggest that the specific roles and putative patterns of molecular signalling in the germ line and somatic tissues are not conserved between flies and worms.