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30 December 2023 On the status of Megalosphecia Le Cerf, 1916, with description of a remarkable new species of Cicinnoscelis Holland, 1893 from West Africa (Lepidoptera: Sesiidae: Sesiini)
Daniel Bartsch, Szabolcs Sáfián, Dominic Wanke
Author Affiliations +

A new species of clearwing moth, Cicinnoscelis grandiosus Bartsch & Sáfián, sp. n. from Sierra Leone and Liberia in West Africa, is described and depicted. Two female specimens were collected while they were laying eggs on the freshly damaged stump of an unidentified tree. A third female was found in the collection of the Berlin Natural History Museum. The male is unknown. We also establish the following junior subjective synonyms: Megalosphecia Le Cerf, 1916 = Cicinnoscelis Holland, 1893, syn. n., and Megalosphecia gigantipes Le Cerf, 1916 = Cicinnoscelis longipes Holland, 1893, syn. n.

Eine neue Art der Glasflügler, Cicinnoscelis grandiosus Bartsch & Sáfián, sp. n. aus Sierra Leone und Liberia in West Afrika, wird beschrieben und abgebildet. Zwei weibliche Exemplare wurden gesammelt, während sie Eier an den Stumpf eines frisch geschlagenen unbekannten Baumes legten. Ein drittes Weibchen konnte in der Sammlung des Museums für Naturkunde Berlin gefunden werden. Das Männchen ist unbekannt. Weiterhin etablieren wir die folgenden jüngeren subjektiven Synonyme: Megalosphecia Le Cerf, 1916 = Cicinnoscelis Holland, 1893, syn. n., und Megalosphecia gigantipes Le Cerf, 1916 = Cicinnoscelis longipes Holland, 1893, syn. n.


The outstanding clearwing moth genus Cicinnoscelis Holland, 1893 contains some of the largest species of the entire family worldwide. Apart from their size, the most striking common feature of members of this genus are the extraordinarily long, partially tufted hindlegs, which are among the longest in the entire Lepidoptera. Previously, the genus was only known from three species, all of which occur in sub-Saharan Africa (Bartsch 2013; De Prins & De Prins 2011–2023).

Cicinnoscelis was described by Holland (1893) based on a single male of C. longipes Holland, 1893 from Gabon. A few years later, Hampson (1919), without having seen this specimen, considered Cicinnoscelis to be a junior synonym of Alonina Walker, 1856. This assumption was maintained for almost a hundred years. Bartsch (2013), however, confirmed Cicinnoscelis as a distinct genus, placed it in the tribe Sesiini and published a detailed redescription based on two males of C. longipes and the female holotypes of C. flavipes Bartsch, 2013 and C. krooni Bartsch, 2013. He also pointed out the probable synonymy of C. longipes and Megalosphecia gigantipes Le Cerf, 1916. At that time, C. longipes was only known from males, while M. gigantipes was represented by two female holotypes, its own and that of f. obscura, both from Cameroon. Apart from the holotype, a few other, many decades old specimens of C. longipes are known, all housed in the collection of the Royal Belgian Museum for Central Africa (Tervuren, Belgium). Three males and two females were examined and are also included in the ‘Global Sesiidae-Clearwing Moths of the World’ project, embedded in the ‘Barcoding of Life’ initiative (Hebert et al. 2003). Two of these, a male and a female, which morphologically perfectly match the types of C. longipes and M. gigantipes, respectively, were successfully sequenced as part of the present study and the results clearly show the conspecificity of the two taxa. As a consequence, Megalosphecia Le Cerf, 1916 is here proposed as a junior synonym of Cicinnoscelis Holland, 1893, syn. n., and Megalosphecia gigantipes Le Cerf, 1916 as a junior synonym of Cicinnoscelis longipes Holland, 1893, syn. n.

During an expedition in the Nimba Mountains, Liberia, two females of Cicinnoscelis were collected in an upland forest at about 1,100 m a.s.l. In flight, they strongly resembled a species of spider-hunting Hemipepsis Dahlbom, 1844 wasps (Pompilidae). Once landed, it became apparent that they were actually sesiid moths. Even in the wild, the great similarity of these specimens to C. longipes was noticeable. However, a more detailed morphological and genetic examination revealed that they are representatives of an as yet undescribed species.

Figs. 1–4.

Cicinnoscelis longipes Holland, 1893. 1. Holotype male; dorsal view. 2. Male from Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bamanya; underside. 3–4. Female holotype of Megalosphecia gigantipes Le Cerf, 1916. – 3. Dorsal view. 4. Underside. Scale bar: 10 mm.


Material and methods

Type material and the original descriptions were used for the identification and comparison of specimens. Label data of type specimens are cited verbatim in quotation marks, with a slash at the end of each line. Specimens were photographed using a Visionary Digital photography system (LK Imaging System, Dun. Inc.) equipped with a Canon EOS 5 DSLR camera and Canon 100 mm macro lens.

Figs. 5–8.

Cicinnoscelis grandiosus Bartsch & Sáfián, sp. n., females (male unknown). 5–6. Holotype. – 5. Dorsal view. 6. Underside. 7–8. Paratypes. – 7. Liberia, Nimba Mountains. 8. Sierra Leone. Scale bar: 10 mm.


The examined specimens are deposited in the following collections:

CMNH: Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, USA; HNHM: Hungarian Natural History Museum, Budapest, Hungary; MNB: Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin, Germany;

MNHN: Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France;

RMCA: Royal Belgian Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium;

SMNS: Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde, Stuttgart, Germany.

Barcoding analysis

DNA extraction and amplification of the barcode fragment (658 base pairs of the 5' terminus) of the mitochondrial gene Cytochrome-C Oxidase I were performed using standard protocols (e.g., Ivanova et al. 2006). PCR amplification products were sent to Macrogen for sequencing. Genetic distances were calculated using MEGA X (Kumar et al. 2018; Stecher et al. 2020) based on the K2P model by Kimura (1980). COI sequences of other taxa used in this study were downloaded from BOLD (, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. A complete list of specimens used for the analysis is presented in Appendix 1 along with sampling sites and BOLD Process ID numbers.


Cicinnoscelis Holland, 1893

  • Cicinnoscelis Holland, 1893: 183. Type species: Cicinnoscelis longipes Holland, 1893, by monotypy.

  • Megalosphecia Le Cerf, 1916: 13, pl. 381, fig. 319. Syn. n. Type species: Megalosphecia gigantipes Le Cerf, 1916, by monotypy. [Description: Le Cerf (1917: 359).]

  • References: Hampson (1919: 78, as Cicinoscelis [sic]); Dalla Torre & Strand (1925: 120, as Cicinoscelis [sic]); Naumann (1971: 14); Heppner & Duckworth (1981: 42); Fletcher & Nye (1982: 38); PÜhringer & Kallies (2004: 43); Bartsch (2013: 5).

  • Cicinnoscelis longipes Holland, 1893

  • Cicinnoscelis longipes Holland, 1893: 184. References: Hampson (1919: 78); Dalla Torre & Strand (1925: 120); Gaede (1929: 527); Heppner & Duckworth (1981: 42); PÜhringer & Kallies (2004: 43); Bartsch (2013: 5).

  • Megalosphecia gigantipes Le Cerf, 1916: 13. Syn. n. References: Le Cerf (1917: 360); Hampson (1919: 79); Dalla Torre & Strand (1925: 172); Gaede (1929: 528); Heppner & Duckworth (1981: 43); PÜhringer & Kallies(2004: 44); Bartsch (2013: 6).

  • Type material examined

  • Holotype ♂ of Cicinnoscelis longipes (Fig. 1): Valley of the Ogowé River, about two hundred miles from the mouth of the river, leg. Rev. Dr. GOOD; with labels: “Cicinnoscelis /longipes, Holl. /Type. /Ogové. Good”, “276” (CMNH).

  • Holotype♀ofMegalospheciagigantipes(Figs.3–4):Afrique occidentale, Johann-Albrechts-Höhe-Station, Kamerun, 1896, leg. L. CONRADT; with labels: “Afriq. Occid. /Johann-Albrechts Höhe /Station-Kamerun /L. Conradt /1896”; “TYPE”; “Megalosphecia gigantipes /♀, Type Le Cerf /Et. Lep. comp. XII fig. 3192, XIV p. 360 /F. Le Cerf det. 1917”; “Ex Collection /Ch. Oberthür /acquise en IV-1925 /par R. Biedermann”. Holotype ♀ of Megalosphecia gigantipes f. obscura: Kamerun, Lolodorf, 1894–1895, leg. L. CONRADT; with labels: “Kamerun /Lolodorf, /L. Conradt /1894-1895”; “TYPE”; “Megalosphecia gigantipes /var. obscura Le Cerf /♀, Type /Et. Lep. comp. XII fig. 3191, XIV p. 361 /F. Le Cerf det. 1917”; “Ex Collection /Ch. Oberthür /acquise en IV-1925 /par R. Biedermann” (MNHN).

  • Other examined material

  • 1 ♀, Congo, Kivu, [unreadable, probably Stanleyville = Kisangani], 31. Dec. 1921, leg. van SACEGHEM; 1 ♂, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Tshuapa [river]: Bamanya, 15. Jan. 1965, leg. R.P. HULSTAERT; 2 ♂, 1 ♀, (1 ♂ Fig. 2): Congo, Eala. Nov. 1936, leg. J. GHESQUIÈRE (RMCA).

  • Remarks

  • So far, this species has been recorded from Cameroon, Gabon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A record from Sierra Leone (De Prins & De Prins 2011–2023) belongs to C. grandiosus sp. n.

  • Cicinnoscelis grandiosus Bartsch & Sáfián, sp. n.
    (Figs. 5–8)

  • Type material

  • Holotype ♀ (Figs. 5–6): “Liberia, Nimba County, /East Nimba NR Cellcom /Road cc., 1150 m, 16.XI.2022, /7°31′44.2″N 8°31′38.4″W, /netted during egg laying, /Sz. Sáfián, D. Bartsch leg.”; “Holotypus /Cicinnoscelis grandiosus /Bartsch & Sáfián, 2023 /♀ /D. Bartsch, des. 2023” (SMNS).

  • Paratypes: 1 ♀, same data as holotype (HNHM) (Fig. 7); 1 ♀, “Sierra Leone /1888, Preuss [leg.]” (ZMHB) (Fig. 8).

  • Description

  • Female. Holotype with alar expanse of 60.0 mm, forewing 27.0 mm, antenna 16.5 mm, body length (without legs) 31.5 mm, hindlegs outstretched 46.0 mm. Head: labial palpus rust-red, mottled with some black scales, ventrally orange-rust, first palpomere in distal portion laterally black; frons rust-red, white adjacent to eyes, medially dark grey; vertex dark greyish brown, medially black, bald between antenna and ocellus, with light spot in front of ocellus; pericephalic scales dorso-medially dark greyish brown, dorso-laterally black, laterally rust-red, ventrally ochre-yellow; antenna rust-red, dorsally with some black scales in proximal portion. Thorax: patagia rust-red, medially blackish grey, laterally orange; mesothorax dorsally smooth, black, rust-red adjacent to tegula, laterally covered with short, hair-like, mixed blackish grey and rust-red to orange-rust scales, caudal portion orange-rust; tegula rust-red, framed with black, caudally with dense tuft of hair-like, ochre, laterally black scales; metathorax with dorso-lateral scale tufts ochre, basally brown, with an additional long, dense, dark grey tuft laterally at hindwing base. Legs: predominantly smooth, except for hindleg all legs almost entirely rust-red to orange-rust; mid tibia proximally with little black spot; hind tibia densely tufted on inner side and distal third of outer side, dorsally pale orange-rust, sub-distally with black, dorso-lateral spot, laterally black proximal to mid-spurs, at level of spurs an indistinct, narrow, white diagonal stripe. Wings: forewing opaque, velvet black, part distad of discal vein with light violet shine, wing base with oblique, dark rust-red stripe from base of costal margin to anal margin; hindwing opaque, black, at discal cell mixed with rust-red, distally slightly transparent, especially along veins, at anal angle transparent, indistinctly bordered, a small transparent area at wing base between second anterior and posterior cubital veins; fringes of all wings black. Abdomen: black with slight steel-blue gloss; first tergite dorsally with small tufts of dark rust-red scales; tip dark rust-red, anal tuft absent. Genitalia not examined.

  • Male unknown.

  • Variation

  • Insignificant in colour and pattern; wingspan of para-types 61 and 63 mm, respectively; slight variation in translucence of hindwings.

  • Diagnosis

  • Very similar in size and shape to Cicinnoscelis longipes. Females of both species are easily distinguished by their colouration. Cicinnoscelis longipes is much darker, with labial palpus densely dark grey; antenna, vertex, patagia and tegula predominantly black; legs dark rust-red, densely mixed with black-grey; forewing base and hindwing discal cell without rust-red marking; anal area of hindwing with transparent part smaller and proximally more clearly defined. Females of C. flavipes and C. krooni are very different and cannot be confused with C. grandiosus sp. n.

  • Behaviour

  • Two females were observed flying over a recently partially cleared patch in a disturbed upland forest close to stumps and trunks of cut shrubs and young trees near the ground between 14.00 and 15.00 local time. The first specimen observed flew in large circles to locate a potential host plant, then landed on the ground near the cut stem of a young tree or creeper and probably performed oviposition. In flight, the insect strongly resembles spider-hunting wasps in the genus Hemipepsis, potentially mimicking Hemipepsis tamisieri (Guérin, 1848) (Pompilidae), which is widespread in tropical Africa and has been recorded also from Sierra Leone (VAN Noort 2022). Within half an hour, a second female appeared with very similar behaviour. No further specimens were observed during the next week, despite regular checks.

  • DNA barcoding

  • Alongside morphological examination, we compared the COI sequence of C. grandiosus sp. n. with those of the apparently nearest species C. longipes and other species of the tribes Sesiini, Osminiini, Paranthrenini and Synanthedonini. Our results correspond well with the morphological results, with C. grandiosus sp. n. differing from C. longipes by 10.3% and by more than 14% from the other taxa (Table 1).

  • Etymology

  • From the Latin grandis (= great, grand).

  • Table 1.

    Comparison of pairwise genetic distances (in %) between Cicinnoscelis grandiosus Bartsch & Sáfián, sp. n., Cicinnoscelis longipes Holland, 1894 and other Afrotropical species: Alonina rygchiiformis Walker, 1856; Anaudia felderi Wallengren, 1863; Barbasphecia hephaistos Pühringer & Sáfián, 2011; Felderiola candescens Naumann, 1971 (Sesiini); Homogyna xanthophora (Hampson, 1910) (Osminiini); Sura xylocopiformis Walker, 1856 (Paranthrenini) and Tipulamima flavifrons Holland, 1893 (Synanthedonini), based on COI barcodes (658 bp). Analyses were conducted using the Kimura 2-parameter model (Kimura 1980). The analysis was conducted in MEGA X (Kumar et al. 2018; Stecher et al. 2020).



    We are grateful to Hugo dal'Asta and Jurate De Prins (RMCA), Wolfram Mey (MNB) and Joël Minet (MNHN) for their kind support, the loan of museum specimens and/or the permission to take photos of type specimens. The late John Rawlins (CMNH) provided photos of the holotype of Cicinnoscelis longipes. Franz Pühringer provided photos of C. longipes specimens from the RMCA collection. We also acknowledge his outstanding efforts in building the ‘Global Sesiidae-Clearwing Moths of the World’ project gene database.

    © Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Stuttgart



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    Appendix 1.

    List of specimens used for the calculation of genetic distances, with species, sampling site and BOLD Process ID.

    Daniel Bartsch, Szabolcs Sáfián, and Dominic Wanke "On the status of Megalosphecia Le Cerf, 1916, with description of a remarkable new species of Cicinnoscelis Holland, 1893 from West Africa (Lepidoptera: Sesiidae: Sesiini)," Integrative Systematics: Stuttgart Contributions to Natural History 6(2), 71-77, (30 December 2023).
    Received: 13 March 2023; Accepted: 28 November 2023; Published: 30 December 2023
    Afrotropical Region
    clearwing moths
    new synonyms
    Nimba Mountains
    Sierra Leone
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