Young larvae are similar to helicoverpa. Larger larvae (10-15 mm long) have a pigment free, cream-yellow coloured body that tapers to the rear and a dark, somewhat flattened head capsule. Moths are 9 mm long and greyish-brown. Eggs are oval-shaped, flattened and are laid singly often next to a leaf vein on the lower surface. Eggs are initially white and develop a red ring closer to hatching.
Larvae tunnel into the growing point causing multiple branching and delayed maturity. On the rare occasions that conditions allow cotton tipworm to reach high numbers in fruiting cotton, squares and bolls may also be damaged.