How to Tap Maple Trees for Syrup

 

Date: February 8th, 2017

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Collecting maple sap is a green, environmentally sustainable process that can be enjoyed by anyone with a healthy, mature maple tree. 

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The process of tapping maple trees, collecting the sap, and making maple syrup (one of the many uses of maple sap) is actually quite simple. It does, however, take some time and a willingness to get outdoors and experience this miracle of nature (you're literally tapping into Mother Nature!). Below is a summary of the process provided by Tap My Trees - a leader in Maple Tree tapping and manufacturer of some of the best products on the market.

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Tapping Trees can be split into 4 major steps. This article will cover the first 3 steps.

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Preparation

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The most effective way to identify maple trees is to create a map of your yard and record each type of tree (or at least the maples).

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The most commonly tapped maple trees are SugarBlackRed, and Silver Maples. Click on the link of each tree for a detailed description of how to identify the tree.

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Obtain Equipment Needed to Tap Trees

Equipment to Tap Trees

Buckets: Used to collect the sap as it drips from the spile.

Lids: Attached to the top of the bucket to prevent rain, snow, and foreign material from entering the bucket.

Drill Bit: Depending upon the type of spile used, either a 5/16 or 7/16 drill bit is used to drill the tap hole into your maple tree.

Spiles: The spile (or tap) is inserted into the drilled hole to transfer sap into the bucket.

Hooks: Hooks are attached to the spile and used to hang the bucket.

Cheesecloth: Used to filter any solids (such as pieces of bark) when transferring sap from the collection bucket to a storage container.

Complete kits are offered in two varieties, with plastic buckets/lids or metal buckets/lids.

Storage Containers: Food grade storage containers are used to store your collected sap. Clean plastic milk jugs or juice containers may be used.

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Tapping Trees

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Generally the sap starts to flow between mid-February and mid-March. The exact time of year depends upon where you live and weather conditions. Sap flows when daytime temperatures rise above freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit / 0 Celsius) and nighttime temperatures fall below freezing. The rising temperature creates pressure in the tree generating the sap flow. This is basically a transfer of the sap from the tree above the ground and the root system below the ground. The sap generally flows for 4 to 6 weeks, with the best sap produced early on in the sap-flowing season.

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Select Maple Trees to Tap

Now is the time to pull out that yard map where you have identified your maple trees, including the type of maple tree. The recommended order in selecting your maple trees to yield a higher sugar content is: Sugar, Black, Red, Silver. Select trees that are mature (at least 12 inches in diameter) and healthy.

Diameter of Tree

12-20" - 1 Tap

21-27" - 2 Taps

Greater than 27" - 3 Taps

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The height of the tap hole should be at a height that is convenient for you and allows easy collection. A height of about 3 feet is recommended. If the tree has been tapped in previous seasons, do not tap within 6 inches of the former tap hole. Ideally, the tap hole should be above a large root or below a large branch on the south side of the tree. If more than one tap is to be placed in the same tree, distribute the tap holes around the circumference of the tree. Be sure to avoid any damaged area of the tree.

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Drill the Tap Hole: The size of the drill bit to be used is dependent on the type of spile you are using. Most spiles require either a 7/16 or 5/16 bit. Drill a hole 2 to 2 ½ inches deep. Drill at a slight upward angle to facilitate downward flow of sap from the hole. The shavings from the drilled tap hole should be light brown, indicating healthy sapwood. If the shavings are dark brown, drill another hole in a different location

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Inserting the Spile: Clear any wood shavings from the edge of the hole. Insert the spile into the loop on the hook (hook facing outward), and then insert the spile into the tap hole. Gently tap the spile into the tree with a hammer (do not pound the spile into the tree, as this may cause the wood to split). If the sap is flowing, you should immediately see sap dripping from the spile.

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Hang the bucket and attach lid - Hang the bucket by inserting the hook into the hole on the rim of the bucket. Attach the lid to the spile by inserting the metal wire into the double holes on the spile.

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Collect Sap

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Depending upon the weather conditions, sap will start to flow immediately after tapping the tree. It drips from the spile into the bucket. Maple sap is a clear fluid and resembles water. The collection amount may vary. Some days you will collect only a small amount and other days your buckets will overflow if not emptied.

Below is a short video of sap flowing:

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All images, video and content are used with permission from Tap My Trees LLC. For more information, please visit their website, www.tapmytrees.com.



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