Maple Sap and Nectar

My grandmother planted three sugar maples in the front yard around the time I was born.  We do everything with these trees.  We play catch under their shade, we enjoy their fall colors, we jump in their leaves, we tap them for sugar and our bees buzz their flowers.  I want to discuss these last two briefly.

We are a seasonal farm.  We shut down most of our business for the winter and just catch our breath.  Yes, we try to stretch our garden as late into the season as we can, yes we raise replacement layers in the winter but for the most part we put our feet up and read or play scrabble.  This year we added something to our winter activities.  We watched water boil.  We picked up a tree tapping kit from  The equipment we got wasn’t cheap but was excellent.  Also, you need to be aware that there are different kinds of maple trees and they need to be at least 12″ in diameter before you tap.  Those could be 30 year old trees at their first tap.  You might want to get them planted soon.  Also, this doesn’t hurt the tree.

Here are the steps involved to gather the sap.  I’ll post a follow-up on how we dealt with the sap and made syrup and sugar from it.

Using the drill bit supplied in the kit, drill a hole in the tree.  Drill up at a slight angle and 2″ deep.

Now, tap the …erm…tap into the tree.  It will be a snug fit.  There is probably a bucket hook that goes on the tap before you insert it into the tree.  Again, don’t worry, you aren’t hurting the tree.

The bucket just hangs from the hood and the sap should start running immediately.  We were surprised by the instant and musical drip into the buckets.

Pop the lid on to keep out the rain and check your bucket daily.  Some of our buckets filled in 24 hours while other trees weren’t as generous.

Here’s a shot of the sap.  Please notice it’s a clear liquid.  Once the sap turns milky you’re out of business.

Being out of the maple business isn’t all bad.  A few weeks after our maple season finished the bees were busy at the tops of the trees.  Where the buckets had been drumming, the bees were humming.  What nice trees.  Thanks Grandma.

So, if you have 30 years to wait for syrup, go ahead and plant your trees.  The bees like them, they produce dense shade and beautiful fall colors.  Let me know if you find any additional uses for your trees too.

I would also like to point the reader to pick up a copy of Scott and Helen Nearing’s Maple Sugaring Book.