Their fore legs are massively developed for burrowing much like those of true moles. Some species are wingless but these have short fore wings with very large, fan-shaped hind wings folded beneath them, the tips sticking out like 2 spikes.
Males produce a characteristic uninterrupted deep buzzing sound, which is hard to locate, by rubbing together the files on their fore wings. They do not often jump, but often fly to lights.
Feed on plant roots and may be a pest of wet lawns or bowling greens. Some feed on potatoes and strawberries at night. Eggs are laid in a nest chamber in the burrow and the 10 larval stages take 2 years to reach maturity.