The species Formica aquilonia and F. lugubris of the mound-building red wood ants have a disjunct boreoalpine distribution in Europe. The populations of F. aquilonia in Finland, Switzerland and the British Isles show little genetic differentiation, whereas the populations of F. lugubris show considerable differentiation. The Central European populations morphologically identified as F. lugubris can be genetically divided into two groups (here called types A and B). Type B is found in the Alps and the Jura mountains, and is genetically inseparable from F. aquilonia. Type A lives sympatrically with type B in the Jura mountains and is also found in the British Isles. Sympatry of the two types in the Jura shows that these are separate species. It remains open whether type B is morphologically atypical F. aquilonia or whether it is a separate species, perhaps with a past history of introgression between F. aquilonia and F. lugubris. The gene frequencies in the Finnish populations of F. lugubris differ from those of both types A and B. Genetic differences within F. lugubris indicate that the populations have evolved separately for a long time. The social structure of F. lugubris colonies also shows geographic variation. The nests in Finland and the British Isles seem to be mainly monogynous and monodomous, whereas the nests in Central Europe are polygynous and form polydomous colonies. F. aquilonia has polygynous and polydomous colonies in all populations studied.