I finally had a chance to tap one of our sugar maple trees today; ideally this would have been done a week or two ago because, according to the Michigan Maple Syrup Association, tree tapping should be done in mid-February in lower Michigan and the first week of March in the Upper Peninsula. According to Tap My Trees:
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.
Usually we are seeing daytime temperatures above freezing by now, but this year has been record-breakingly cold, so I’m hoping March 1st isn’t too late to tap, given how cold the weather has been here. It’s been so cold that despite leaving one bubbler on in our pond, it has nevertheless frozen all the way over:
My husband will have to cut through the ice in a few places so that the fish won’t suffocate.
To tap my first tree, here is what I did.
1. Get a 7/16-inch drill bit.
3. Get a spile and hook (I bought mine at Family Farm and Home):
4.Slide the hook’s ring over the spile so that the hook faces out:
5. Drill a hole on the south side of your maple tree, about three feet off the ground and either over a large root or under a large branch. Angle your drill so that the hole you drill slants slightly upwards:
6. Insert the stile into the hole, tapping it firmly into place with a hammer. Hang the bucket on the hook:
7. Slide the lid’s bar through the holes in the spile:
8. Empty sap bucket as needed; the sap should stay good for about a week as long as you keep it cold, after which you’ll need to boil it down into syrup:
The sap should be stored at a temperature of 38 degrees F or colder, used within 7 days of collection and boiled prior to use to eliminate any possible bacteria growth. If there is still snow on the ground, you may keep the storage containers outside, located in the shade, and packed with snow. You can also store the sap in your refrigerator, or for longer term storage, in your freezer. Remember that sap is like milk, it will spoil quickly if not kept cold.
A maple tree of this size should yield around ten gallons of sap, which can be boiled down into one quart of maple syrup. If the sap is flowing, I’ll collect it all week and then make maple syrup next weekend.