This is a medium-sized skink with a maximum snout-vent length of 3.1 inches (79 mm) and a maximum total length of 7.6 inches (194 mm) in Virginia. The body has smooth, overlapping, and glossy scales. The five lines are white to orange in color against a black to brown background. The stripes go the length of the body and about half the length of the tail. The tail is easily broken off by capture or by a predator. The original tail is brownish-gray to purplish and the regenerated one is grayish-brown. During the breeding season, males have red heads. Adult males are larger than females. Mating times are unknown but probably occur in April and early May. Eggs are laid in June and early July, and the female lays one clutch of 7-11 eggs. The eggs are laid in decaying logs and stumps or on the ground under logs. They hatch from early July to early August. This skink is less arboreal than the five-lined skink, E. fasciatus.
This skink is found around man-made structures, edges of fields and woods, urban woodlots, dry pine forests, mixed pine-hardwood forests, early stage of lowland pine communities, and sawdust piles. It is found in logs and under bark or debris on the ground. It overwinters in decomposing logs and cracks of man-made dwellings. Because the eggs are laid in decomposing logs and stumps, they need older-aged stands to maintain a supply of egg-laying and resting locations.
This skink feeds mainly on invertebrates, including beetles, grasshoppers, wood roaches, caterpillars, spiders, and centipedes.