The size of the rove beetles ranges from 0.5 mm to more than 30 mm. The majority of species are slim and parallel-sided. Some have dull colors (brown, reddish or black) but others are metallic. The anterior part of the body has often a different color than the rear. One of the most outstanding characteristic of these beetles is the shortness of their elytra which generally cover only the two first abdominal segments. This feature has allowed the body to be very flexible, thus giving these beetles access to more difficult microhabitats.
Rove beetles live in various biotopes but always need a certain degree of humidity. They can be found on strands or banks, in moist moss, dead leaves, peat, mushrooms growing on the ground or on trees, under rotting barks, on carcasses, in the litter covering the forest soils, in nests of birds, mammals or social insects (ants, hornets), and even sometimes on flowers.
They fly well, and among them can be found diurnal species, as well as nocturnal ones. Most of them are predators, but some have a phytophagous or saprophagous diet. They are generally beneficial, as they destroy the larvae of numerous pests and therefore are part of the "sanitary police" of nature.