Safety first – Protect yourself in the bush
While working in the sugar bush, maple syrup producers should take all necessary safety precautions to ensure the risk of injury is minimized, such as:
1) Always wear protective clothing
2) Wear appropriate protective equipment including a helmet, hearing and eye protection. Wear certified protective clothing and footwear when using a chainsaw. Take a chainsaw safety course.
3) Watch out for hazards in the bush, such as dead trees, hanging limbs and trees showing weakness above ground.
4) Tractors or other heavy equipment should have roll-over protection and impact frames installed over the driver. Wear the seatbelt.
5) Never work alone in the sugar bush, especially when using chainsaws. Have a cell phone or a radio with you to call for help if necessary. Have a plan of action among your workers or family members. Attend a professional First-Aid course.
6) If you are excessively tired, stop for the day and return when rested.
Photo 1. Lateral lines and mainlines should be pulled tight enough to remove any sags in the line to help keep sap flowing. Tight tubing will help drain sap between runs. Here, spouts are ready for tapping and installation, once the sapwood is not frozen.
Prevent bark splitting when tapping trees
Temperatures are expected to remain too cold in the coming week for tapping maple trees. Several producers have reported significant splitting of tap holes this past week where taps were drilled during temperatures of minus 20 °C. Installing spouts into tap holes, even gently during very cold weather easily leads to splitting of bark above and below the tap hole. Split bark will often cause a poor seal around spouts and the inner tap hole. Vacuum pressures can be severely affected due to air leaks near split bark. Bark splitting may not appear right away when taps are installed. Split wood requires expenditure of additional energy by the tree to heal during spring and summer.
Wait for warmer weather. To prevent splitting of bark around tap holes, wait until the sap wood in sugar maple trees is above minus 5 °C, preferably near 0 °C. It can require a few days for the sapwood to equilibrate with surrounding air temperatures where trees have been frozen by deep cold.
Tapping maple tree ( – 5 °C or warmer)
Many producers now use electric rechargeable drills to tap sugar maples. Here are a few guidelines on tapping trees.
- Ensure drill bits are the proper size for the spouts to be used. Small diameter health spouts are 5/16 or 19/64 inches in diameter. Maple equipment dealers sell drill bits that are specifically designed for tapping maple trees.
- Drill bits should be sharp, clean and sanitized. Have several sanitized drill bits on hand in a Zip-Lock bag and replace as required during tapping.
- Drill tap-holes on a slightly upward angle of 5 to 10 degrees into the tree. The tap hole should have a slight slope to allow remnant sap and rain water to drain by gravity after the sap collection season is completed. Drainage helps to prevent decay organisms from establishing in the tap holes during summer.
- Researchers recommend tap holes be drilled to a depth of 1 ½ inches to minimize injury to the trees, no more than 2 inches deep.
- After drilling the tap holes gently tap each clean and sanitized spout into the hole until is just beyond finger tight. Spouts can always be set a bit firmer during follow up inspections.
Photo 3. Angle the drill bit slightly upwards 1 to 2 degrees to create a downward slope in the tap hole. Drill to a depth of 1.5 inches, no more than 2 inches. Electrical tape can mark the depth. To keep the hole perfectly round, push the drill in and pull back out on exactly the same path. This prevents oval-shapped holes which can cause air leaks in the vacuum.
Photo 4. Wood shavings on the drill bit should be creamy or white in colour (right) which is healthy and conducts sap freely. Darker stained wood (left) is unhealthy wood and will not conduct sap or sap will be discoloured and not good for making syrup. Avoid drilling directly above or below tap holes from previous seasons.
DA-2J – Ethanol 63.2%. A Federally approved sanitizer for drill bits and spouts during tapping.
Is effective against bacteria affecting maple sap flow.
Label directions for use: Periodically disinfect the tapping bit by immersing it in DA-2J ethanol for 2 seconds. Immediately before inserting it in the tap hole, spray the interior and exterior of the spout with 2 mL of DA-2J with a spray bottle. It is recommended to throw out the first sap flow after the application of the product.
Ask your equipment dealer about DA-2J ethanol. [REG NO. 26462, P.C.P. ACT] Read the label. This product is flammable and requires caution. This ethanol product is not the same alcohol product that is accepted for use as a sap line sanitizer.