This species was formerly recorded as Formica candida Smith, 1878 or Formica transkaucasica Nasonov, 1889. It is in a group of darker, more slender and agile species (the Serviformica) which includes the similar black species, F. fusca and F. lemani. Formica picea can be distinguished by its characteristic pilosity and shiny cuticle.
Formica picea has a localised distribution in England and South Wales. It is currently found on a small number of wet low land heaths in Dorset and Hampshire (particularly around Wareham and the New Forest), suitable habitat in Surrey and on lowland raised bogs near Carmarthen and on the Gower (Rhossili Down). The Welsh sites came to light in 1992 and 1996 respectively, the Surrey sites in 2003, and these significantly extend the known range of the species (an earlier unsubstantiated record for Rhossili from 1913 now seems likely to have been accurate). The similarity between F. picea and other 'Serviformica', along with its habit of living in the most inaccessible and wettest bogs may have led to under-recording. Overseas, found from Arctic Sweden and Siberia south to northern Spain, the Appenines, Caucasus and Himalayas, and east to Japan.