When To Tap Maple Trees.
Sap starts to flow between February and March. The exact time depends upon where you live and weather conditions. Sap flows when daytime temperatures are above freezing (32º F) and nighttime temperatures fall below freezing. The rising temperature creates pressure in the tree, generating the sap flow. Sap generally flows for 4 to 6 weeks, though the best sap is produced early on in the sap-flowing season.
Select Maple Trees to Tap.
Identified your maple trees, including the type of maple tree. Appropriate, local trees are Sugar, Red, Black, Silver and Box Elder Maple Trees. Select a tree at least 12” in diameter. A 12” diameter tree should have only one tap, larger trees may have up to three. Select trees with the greatest exposure to sunlight, damaged or recovering trees are not candidates for tapping.
Clean Your Equipment.
Clean spiles bucket and lids prior to use each season with a mixture of 1 part unscented household bleach to 20 parts clean water. Using a brush or cloth, scrub your supplies and triple rinse all equipment with hot water.
Gather Your Equipment.
Now the excitement starts. The weather conditions are ideal and you are headed out to the yard to tap your first tree. Take your drill (with bit attached), hammer, spiles, hooks, buckets and lids.
Tap Your Tree.
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” of the former tap hole. Ideally, a 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, distribute the tap holes evenly around the circumference of the tree. Being sure to avoid any damaged areas.
Drill the Tap Hole.
he size of the drill bit to be used is dependent on the type of spile you are using. Drill a hole 2”-2.5” 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.
Inserting the Spile.
Clear any wood shavings from the edge of the 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.
Hang the Bucket & Attach Lid.
Hang the bucket and attach the lid to the spile. Bucket contents should be collected daily and prevented from going above 45ºF to prevent spoilage. Trees produce the most sap on days where the daytime is above freezing and the night before was below freezing.