How To Collect Sap from Sugar Maple Trees

Maple syrup, made from the sap of sugar maple trees, is a sweetener that is often eaten with pastries such as pancakes, French toast, and waffles for that extra sugary taste. Collecting sap is fairly simple and moderately easy to do. So whether you are collecting sap and turning it to maple syrup for income, for family activity, or just to make your own batch of the stuff, just follow the instructions given below.

What you need:

  • A hand drill, with a 7/16 inch drill bit
  • A hammer
  • A syrup tap, or spout
  • A sap bucket with a cover, or collection bags with hangers
  • Another container to store the sap

Selecting which sugar maple tree/s to collect sap from

The sugar maple tree has the highest sugar content among the different species of maple trees (e.g. silver maple, red maple, ash leafed maple) that are used for collecting sap. The tree you choose should have a diameter that is more than 1 ½ feet or at least 10 inches. Also make sure that the tree is well exposed to sunlight and have large healthy crowns.

Deciding when to tap sugar maple tree/s

Collecting sap is most appropriate during cold weather and should be done in a four to six week period, specifically during the months January or February. Sap flow occurs after a freezing night and during a bright sunny day, when the sap thaws with a temperature of just above 40 degree Fahrenheit. Be warned that the holes you tap might get sealed over if you tap too soon before the sap flow starts. And you need to stop your collecting when the trees start budding, when the sap begins to taste bitter. 

Drilling holes in the sugar maple tree/s

Follow the instructions and tips given to start tapping the sugar maple tree/s:

  • Find the side of the tree which is most exposed to sunlight (usually on the southeast or southwest sides) to get better sap flow.
  • Find a part of the trunk where it is whiter than brown to tap on. Having a tap hole in a browner area of the tree would give you a different flavor of sap that is least delicious.
  • If the tree you are tapping had been used for sap collecting before, be sure to tap in a different location that is at least six inches away from the former tap hole.
  • Drill the hole about 1 ½ inches into the trunk, 4 ½ feet above the ground, and with a slight uphill angle to make the sap flow easier.

Placing your bucket and tap/spout

Position the tap/spout over the hole, secure it by hammering in place, and make sure that it is secure so the sap will not leak. Hang your sap bucket or collection bag on the spout, and have the opening under the spout. Whatever container you are using, make sure that it is covered so the sap inside will not be tampered with.

Next, all you have to do is to wait for the sap to fill your bucket or container. Enjoy your sap collecting and the maple syrup that comes out of the tree.


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