This species is easily confused with Formica cunicularia, especially in the worker caste. The queen's red and black patched trunk provides a guide (see Donisthorpe, 1927, for a black and white illustration giving a good impression of this feature). Live workers appear distinctive with legs darker than the trunk and with a matt black gaster; they swarm rapidly out of the nest in large numbers to attack a disturber.
Very rare in the British Isles: all well-substantiated records are from Surrey and the Isles of Scilly; other records probably refer to F. cunicularia. Its range abroad extends across Asia to western Siberia.