Tapping Maple Trees for Sap

Tapping Maple Trees for Sap

There comes a time of year when the days begin to get warmer, and hope for spring is in the air. After a long, cold winter, these are the days we look forward to. The snow begins to melt, and the sap starts to flow within the trees. For many families in Canada, tapping trees in the springtime is an eagerly awaited annual tradition and an easy and fun way to collect sap to make homemade maple goodies.

Getting Started

Generally, sap begins to flow when the daytime temperatures rise above freezing (0 Celsius / 32 Fahrenheit) and nighttime temperatures fall below freezing. Typically, the season runs for 4-6 weeks, from around mid-February to mid-March. Sap only flows on warm days, so you may not get any on colder days.

Tapping trees is a relatively straightforward process and only requires a few supplies to get started:

  • Power drill & drill bit
  • Spiles
  • Sap buckets & lids
  • Hammer

Some of our local Feeds’n Needs stores carry a great selection of quality sap supplies; be sure to check them out!

Before tapping trees each season, it is important to ensure your supplies are clean. A solution of 1 part unscented household bleach to 20 parts clean water can be used to clean your spiles, buckets, and lids.

Selecting Trees to Tap

When selecting which trees to tap, a maple tree with a high sugar content will produce the best sap for making syrup. Popular maple trees for tapping are sugar, black, red, and silver maples. Select healthy and mature trees with a diameter of at least 12″. Depending on the size, some trees can support more than one tap.

A general guide to follow when tapping trees:

  • 12 – 20” = 1 tap
  • 21 – 27” = 2 taps
  • 27” = 3 taps

How to Tap Trees

Spile Placement: When tapping a tree, place your spile at least 3 feet from the ground and at least 6 inches away from any former tap holes. Tap above a large root or below a branch on the south side of the tree if possible, and if placing multiple taps on one tree, distribute the spiles around the tree’s circumference.

Drill a Hole: Most spiles require a 7/16 or 5/16 drill bit, but double-check to ensure that you use a drill bit that matches the size of your spile. Drill a hole about 2 to 2 ½ inches deep so that you hit the sapwood of the tree. Drill slightly upward to allow the sap to flow downward through your spile and into your bucket.

Insert Your Spile: Insert your spile into the tap hole you drilled. Then, gently tap the spile into place using a hammer so that it fits snugly within the hole. Once the spile is placed, you should begin to see sap start to drip or flow. Maple sap is clear and resembles water.

Hang Your Bucket: Hang your sap bucket by inserting the hook on the spile into the hole in the bucket’s rim. Attach a lid to prevent unwanted snow or debris from collecting in the bucket with your sap.

Sap can be collected until the temperature consistently stays above freezing or when buds begin to form on trees. Remove spiles and wash them to be stored for next season.

Once you collect your sap, keep it cold at 38 degrees Fahrenheit or 3.3 degrees Celsius until you boil it. Sap can be stored for up to 7 days at this temperature.

Now that you’ve learned how to tap trees to collect maple sap, you are well on your way to becoming an expert and enjoying this beloved Canadian tradition. Feel free to ask your local Feeds’ n Needs experts any questions you may have about tree tapping and sap collection. Be sure to check out our great selection of supplies to get you started!

Feeds'n Needs Team