This is a very variable species with the forewings ranging from pale buff through to almost black. The paler forms have three dark-bordered stigmata on each forewing. The main feature distinguishing it from other Agrotis species is the very pale hindwings, pure white in the males, pearly grey in the females. The wingspan is 32-42 mm. Two broods are produced each year, the adults flying in May and June and again in August and September . The species flies at night and is attracted to light and nectar-rich flowers. The species overwinters as a caterpillar.
The grey larva, sometimes tinged with purple, feeds on the roots and lower stems of a huge range of plants (see list below) and can be a serious pest of root vegetables and cereals. The insect is not believed to be present in the United States, where the government has been making efforts to prevent its introduction on imported food crops. A virus is being tested as a biocontrol on crops in Europe.