Formica lugubris, F. aquilonia, F. rufa and F. pratensis comprise a group of morphologically similar British species which are commonly referred to as 'wood ants'. Only F. lugubris and F. aquilonia are recorded from both Britain and Ireland, whilst F. pratensis is now presumed to be extinct on the mainland, but remains in the Channel Islands. The nomenclature of these species, and the morphological distinctions between them, have been considered by Yarrow (1955).
F. lugubris is found as far south as Derbyshire and Radnorshire. Its range therefore overlaps with that of F. rufa in northern Britain and north Wales, and with that of F. aquilonia in Scotland (Edwards 1997 and in prep.). Elsewhere, F. lugubris is recorded from European mountains, extending from the Pyrenees through Eurosiberia to Kamchatka and Japan, and from northern Norway to Italy (Collingwood 1979).