Despite its generic name, this species is not classed as a wood ant.
Formica exsecta exhibits a highly disjunct population in Britain with records confined to southern England and the Scottish Highlands. In England there are two foci for these records: one stretches across the lowland heaths of Dorset (not including Purbeck), and the New Forest from Poole/Bournemouth to Ringwood and Brockenhurst, including Parkhurst Forest on the Isle of Wight. The other is centred around the lowland heaths of the Bovey Valley in east Devon with outlying records for nearby Lustleigh Cleave and for Morwenstow on the north Cornish coast. The majority of Scottish records for F. exsecta are from the Caledonian forests of the mid-Spey valley with outlying records in Easter Ross and Easterness (Highland), and around Loch Rannoch (Tayside). Recent records suggest a fairly stable population in Scotland around Loch Morlich and in Abernethy forest, and its extinction from Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight (the last record for this area was at Talbot Heath near Bournemouth in 1977). The remnant population in the Bovey Valley appears to be just viable.