Species Profile

Dusky Dune Moth

Scientific Name: Copablepharon longipenne
Taxonomy Group: Arthropods
COSEWIC Range: Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: November 2007
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: B2ab(ii,iii)
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: The species is restricted to open, active sand areas that are both fragmented and declining.  Although it may be common where found, it occurs in a small proportion of the total seemingly suitable sites and has been lost from historical localities.  Dispersal between dune systems is considered to be extremely unlikely.  Since the 1940’s, the area of suitable habitat has declined by an estimated 10-20% per decade.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Endangered in November 2007.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2010-02-23

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Taxonomy | Description | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents


The Dusky Dune Moth, Copablepharon longipenne, has two subspecies: C. longipenne longipenne and C. longipenne serraticornis. Only C. longipenne longipenne is found in Canada.



The Dusky Dune Moth is a medium-sized light brown moth. Adults are sexually dimorphic in size: forewing length averages 16.5 mm in males and 18.5 mm in females. A pale streak with a distinctive line of small black dots is often present along the edge of the forewing. The hindwing is brown-grey, darkening towards the fringe. This fringe is dark brown basally and white outwardly.   The eggs are translucent white spheres approximately 0.3 mm in diameter. They are deposited in groups of 15 to 35 in open sand. The caterpillars have a grey base colour overlain with brownish-red stripes. Their heads are light brown with grey mottling, and the ventral surface is distinctly bluish. A fragile layer of agglomerated sand granules protects the pupa, from which the adult emerges.


Distribution and Population

The range of the Dusky Dune Moth extends from southern Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta to western Texas and southern New Mexico. Since 1922, the species has been observed at 12 localities in Canada: in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Except for the population in Brandon, Manitoba, all known populations are found in the Palliser Triangle, the driest region in the Canadian prairies.   It is not known if the Dusky Dune Moth has been extirpated from any sites in Canada. Sparsely vegetated active sand dunes no longer occur in the Lethbridge area in Alberta, and it is unlikely that the population recorded there in 1922 is still present. Stabilization of dunes by vegetation in the Middle Sand Hills, Alberta, and elsewhere may have resulted in the extirpation of some populations or sub-populations.   There are no data on population sizes and long-term trends for the Dusky Dune Moth. Based on the stabilization trends of active sand dunes in the southern Canadian prairies, populations are probably declining at a rate of 10 to 20% per decade. This rate of decline is expected to continue until at least 2025. This rate of decline assumes that there are no other impacts on the survival of this species, and it is therefore likely underestimated.



The Dusky Dune Moth is associated with sparsely vegetated active sand dunes. It is considered a habitat specialist because it is found only in this type of habitat. Field observations suggest that the presence of open sand is important for reproduction; females were observed laying eggs on the edge of active sand dunes.   Although sand deposits are widespread in the southern Prairie provinces, active sand dunes occur infrequently and they make up only a very small fraction of the total area of dune fields. Suitable habitat for the Dusky Dune Moth is therefore extremely fragmented and patchy.



Little is known about the biology of this moth, which is difficult to observe in the field. However, it is known that the Dusky Dune Moth has only one flight season per year; in Canada, this season is approximately 10 weeks long and extends from the middle of June to the middle of August. Adults have been observed gathering nectar from the flowers of dune plants, particularly lance-leaved psoralea, during the evening. Breeding coincides with the flight season, and adult moths die shortly after reproducing. Mating has been observed to occur on plants or on the sand surface near vegetation. Eggs are deposited in groups of 15 to 35 approximately 1 cm below the sand surface; the caterpillars hatch after approximately three weeks. The caterpillars grow in July and August, the two warmest months in the Canadian prairies, and likely overwinter in the sand, although conditions are unknown. Based on the variability of plant species recorded within the immediate vicinity of sites in which the Dusky Dune Moth is found, this moth is probably not restricted to a single host plant for nectar for the adults, for reproduction, or for food for the caterpillars.



The progressive stabilization of sand dunes caused by colonizing vegetation is considered a serious threat to all Dusky Dune Moth populations in Canada.   Development activities (e.g., road building and petroleum infrastructure construction) that result in the destruction of sand dunes are considered a possible threat to the Dusky Dune Moth. However, some disturbance associated with development may create suitable habitat for this moth by increasing the amount of open sand.   Canadian populations may be at risk from demographic collapse because of their small size and their isolation. Because of these factors, these populations may be at an increased risk of extinction.   Grazing has contradictory effects on Dusky Dune Moth habitat. Although grazing can help maintain sparsely vegetated sand dunes that serve as the habitat for this moth, it may also result in soil compaction and the removal of vegetation that the caterpillars use for food. Grazing of vegetation may also crush eggs, caterpillars and pupae. Grazing is therefore considered a possible threat to this moth.   Recreation, including horseback riding, use of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), and hiking, may be intensive in some sand dunes and may result in loss of vegetation, disturbance to sand substrates, and destruction of eggs, caterpillars and pupae. Recreational activities may also maintain or create open sand habitats. Recreational activities are therefore considered a possible threat.



Federal Protection

The Dusky Dune Moth is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Dusky Dune Moth (Copablepharon longipenne) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

10 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Dusky Dune Moth (2008-11-26)

    The species is restricted to open, active sand areas that are both fragmented and declining.  Although it may be common where found, it occurs in a small proportion of the total seemingly suitable sites and has been lost from historical localities.  Dispersal between dune systems is considered to be extremely unlikely.  Since the 1940’s, the area of suitable habitat has declined by an estimated 10-20% per decade.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Dusky Dune Moth (Copablepharon longipenne) in Canada (2015-12-23)

    The Minister of the Environment is the competent minister under SARA for the Dusky Dune Moth and has prepared this strategy, as per section 37 of SARA. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with the Provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, the Department of National Defence, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Carry the Kettle Nakoda First Nation.


COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2007 - 2008 (2008-08-28)

    2008 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Permits and Related Agreements

  • Explanation for issuing permit(#SARA-PNR-2010-0152), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2010-07-15)

    The purpose of this study is to determine the distribution, abundance, and habitat associations of the Dusky Dune Moth. Non lethal nighttime light trapping will be undertaken at locations where the species has been observed and on suitable habitat not previously surveyed. This information is necessary to aid in the recovery of the species, including identification of critical habitat. One to four traps, depending upon the size of the sand dunes, will be operated from dusk until dawn for one to three nights. Traps will be checked each morning shortly after dawn. After identification, target and non-target moths will be released in nearby shaded dense vegetation cover. A voucher specimen may be collected from each site. An attempt will be made to identify the host plant species. A clipping of the potential host plant species may be collected for positive identification. There is a small possibility of incidental capture of the diurnal Gold Edged Gem and nocturnal White Flower Moth due to similar habitat preferences. This is an amendment to the permit to add two new locations in Saskatchewan and a new assistant.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species (2009-01-30)

    As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Please submit your comments by March 20, 2009 for species undergoing normal consultations and by March 19, 2010 for species undergoing extended consultations.

Critical Habitat Descriptions in the Canada Gazette

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016-07-06)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update December 2, 2021
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