Life on the Dunes

A surprising biodiversity

At first glance, it is not apparent that there is abundant life in, on and around the Pinhey sand dunes. But a little patience will be rewarding. Many species of moths, butterflies, beetles and other insects live here and will be affected if the dune disappears. And this is a main reason for our major conservation effort.

A sample of what you can expect to see:

The aptly named Ghost Tiger Beetle, Ellipsoptera lepida, a species well-adapted to the dune system, is perfectly camouflaged in the sand, rendering it nearly invisible. This beetle is widespread in North America but rare. Within a radius of 200 km this beetle can be found only in Pinhey Sand Dunes (Photo: Henri Goulet)
A tiger beetle burrow entrance at Pinhey dunes 1 (Photo: P.T. Dang)
Robber Fly, Proctacanthus milbertii, captured a yellow jacket wasp (Photo: P.T, Dang)
As this dramatic National Geographic video shows, the Ant Lion has an effective and deadly way of trapping its prey: ants.
The beetle digs at the sand, forming a concave indentation. And that becomes the ant trap.
In this video clip, Botanist Paul Catling describes a particular species of grass (Carex rugosperma) that only grows in sandy soil and is threatened when sand dunes disappear.
This mushroom often grows in large groups and is associated with poplar trees. It is usually found in late fall, growing up through the sand.
In this video clip, botanist Paul Catling describes the Star Fungus, sometimes called the ‘Earth Star’ fungus, a species that is often found in and around the edges of sand dunes.
Star fungus at dunes 1 (Photo: P.T. Dang)
This delicate flower can be found in the sandy soil in the forests and near the edges of the Pinhey sand dunes. This orchid species requires a special soil with a symbiotic species of fungus to thrive so please do not pick the flower or dig up the plant as it will not survive transplantation. (Photo: P.T. Dang)