These small insects measure only a few millimetres. Some are dark but others have hairs or scales that cause a contrasting colour pattern. Some genera are characterized by the presence of a frontal simple eye (or ocellus), which is rare among the beetles.
Adults and larvae have varied habits. In nature, they often can be found on desiccated carcasses of small vertebrates, in birds' nests and sometimes those of other insects. The adults of some species visit flowers and eat pollen.
Many cohabit with, or in the vicinity of Man, and some damage textiles, food and collections of museums. They feed from hairs, feathers, wool, leather, carpets, silk, dried food like bacon, seeds, cereals - almost any dry, proteinaceous matter. The larvae of these beetles cause each year millions of francs in damage.