Currently, the systematics of the African noctuid stem borers of the subtribe Sesamiina, which include major pests of cereals, is confused. In addition, their ecology is poorly known, as are the factors influencing their evolution. In this paper, we address these shortcomings for two genera of the Sesamiina, Sciomesa Tams & Bowden and Carelis Bowden. Mixed Bayesian phylogenetic analysis, which included their host plants and two mitochondrial genes, showed the genus Sciomesa to be polyphyletic. Two new genera were created, Pirateolea and Feraxinia. The genus Carelis proved to be paraphyletic and was subdivided into two sub-genera. The genera Sciomesa, Carelis and Pirateolea (named the ‘Sciomesa genus group’) share morphological traits, and the phylogenetic analysis showed that they had a common ancestor living on Cyperaceae and that they were distant from the genus Feraxinia belonging to another clade which had an ancestor living on Poaceae. Seven new species were described: Sciomesa gnosia sp. n., Sciomesia bua sp. n., Pirateolea nola gen. n, sp. n., Feraxinia serena gen. n., sp. n., Carelis australis sp. n., Carelis transversa sp. n. and Carelis agnae sp. n. Ten species were sunk as synonyms: Sciomesa mesoscia (Hampson) syn. n., Sciomesa mirifica Laporte syn. n., Sciomesa constantini Laporte syn. n. and Sciomesa etchecopari Laporte syn. n. are synonyms of Sciomesa mesophaea (Aurivillius); Acrapex sparsipucta Laporte syn. n. is a synonym of Sciomesa excelsa (Laporte) comb. n.; Acrapex congitae Laporte syn. n., Sesamia minuta Laporte syn. n. and Sesamia minuscula Laporte syn. n. are synonyms of Sciomesa boulardi (Laporte) comb. n.; Acrapex bryae Laporte syn. n. and Acrapex fayei Laporte syn. n. are synonyms of Feraxinia jemjemensis (Laporte) comb. n. Eleven new combinations were created: Sciomesa excelsa (Laporte) comb. n., Sciomesa boulardi (Laporte) comb. n., Sciomesa punctipennis (Krüger) comb. n., Pirateolea piscator (Fletcher) comb. n., Pirateolea argocyma (Fletcher) comb. n., Pirateolea cyclophora (Fletcher) comb. n., Pirateolea ochroneura (Fletcher) comb. n., Pirateolea funebris (Krüger) comb. n., Feraxinia nyei (Fletcher) comb. n., Feraxinia jemjemensis (Laporte) comb. n. and Carelis biluma (Nye) comb. n.