Forestry Friday: Sugar Season is Here

Steven Junkin | February 18, 2022
Steve Junkin's evaporation set-up in his garage includes plastic buckets, propane tanks and more.

Steve Junkin's set up at home for his evaporation operations. (Courtesy of Steve Junkin)

Maple sugaring season is here. So when is it time to tap? Its not always the first day above freezing it turns out.

Bottles of maple syrup sit on a window showing the progression of syrup grades as sugar season progresses.
Bottles of maple syrup sit on a window at Steve
Some regions of the state have taken advantage of early February warm ups and consequently had runs of sap. That was not the case last week where I live and attempted to “test-tap” a few of my backyard trees. Temperatures in the mid to upper 30s during the day and mid 20s at night is ideal for good runs of sap so I thought it was worth a shot.

My maple trees had different plans and were holding tough, keeping that sap right where it is. Winters grip appears to be strong and January’s almost 4 degrees colder temperatures might have something to do with it.

I didn’t have to wait long and by the afternoon the sap had begun to flow and I could tap the remaining 14 total taps I have. Best to practice patience with these things and to use visual cues.  My Thompson School professor provided a good suggestion which is to look at the base of the maple tree where the snow line is. If the snow is pulling away from the tree its ready to tap, if the snow is still holding on to the base of the tree its too early.

A red winged blackbird in winter. (Photo: Ellen Kenny)
Are there other visual cues? Perhaps waiting for the first early spring migrant bird like a red-winged blackbird or a Norther Flicker? Both of which I heard for the first time on Thursday (2/17).
  • Hey, by the way, if you’ve got 15 minutes this weekend why not participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count? More and different bird species are showing up daily! For participation info go here.
  • Forest Society maple syrup is produced from trees at The Rocks in Bethlehem. If you would like to get your hands on some for your next pancake breakfast call our office and arrange either a pick up or shipping order by calling 603-224-9945 or emailing Harriette Yazzie-Whitcomb at

Steve Junkin is a field forester at the Forest Society.