Wingspan 12 - 15 mm.
S. nitentella is one of the commonest gelechid moths on saltings in the British Isles, flying in July and August. It can easily be confused with several other Scrobipalpa species, so examination of the genitalia is usually necessary, though even they can be difficult to determine.
Fortunately, the larva can be distinguished from its relatives by its whitish thorax almost devoid of red markings, and its September-October occurrence. It feeds on a variety of salting plants, including Annual sea-blite (Suaeda maritima), goosefoot ( Chenopodium spp.), Grass-leaved orache (Atriplex littoralis), Hastate orache (Atriplex hastata) and Sea-purslane (Atriplex portulacoides). The first instar larva makes a thin 'U' shaped mine, followed in later instars by a wider gallery and irregular blotch. Finally, the larva feeds from a silk tube among the seeds, leaves or against the stem.