Apoptosis of cells and their subsequent removal via efferocytosis occurs in nearly all tissues during development, homeostasis, and disease. However, it has been difficult to track cell death and subsequent corpse removal in vivo. Here, we developed a genetically encoded fluorescent reporter, CharON, that could track emerging apoptotic cells and their efferocytic clearance by phagocytes. Using Drosophila expressing CharON, we uncovered multiple qualitative and quantitative features of coordinated clearance of apoptotic corpses during embryonic development. To confront high rate of emerging apoptotic corpses, the macrophages displayed heterogeneity in engulfment, with some efferocytic macrophages carrying high corpse burden. However, overburdened macrophages were compromised in clearing wound debris, revealing an inherent vulnerability. These findings reveal known and unexpected features of apoptosis and macrophage efferocytosis in vivo.