Number of Taps Per Tree

  • The primary objective when tapping a sugar bush is to minimize injury to the trees while optimizing sap yield
  • It is important to follow the tapping guidelines to prevent excessive drilling damage to the tree trunk in the tapping zone
  • Tapping a maple tree can reduce new wood growth by 15 to 20% the following spring and summer
    • This reduction is acceptable as long as the trees are healthy and are the correct diameter for tapping
  • Tapping trees that are undersized can significantly delay growth and maturity of trees, and therefore will negatively impact the future sugar bush

Tapping Guidelines

The final decision on when and how maple trees are tapped resides with each producer. Long-term research and industry experience provide the following guidelines for tapping a sugar bush based on tree diameter. 

Important: doubling or tripling your number of taps will NOT result in doubling or tripling your sap! Two taps will yield about 135% of the sap.

This guideline applies only to sugar bushes that are in a healthy condition and have not been subjected to recent natural or induced stress.

Taps per tree
Vacuum tubing*Bucket collectionTree trunk diameter at chest height
No tapsNo tapsUnder 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 cm) OR tree is severely stressed at any diameter
One tapOne tap12-18 inches (30 cm to 45 cm)
One to two** tapsTwo taps18 to 24 inches (45 to 60 cm)
One to two** tapsThree** taps, particularly if tree will be removed soon24+ inches (60+ cm)
 Consider removal, will regenerate new trees and remove hazardsold spent trees

*In most cases, only one tap per tree is required if using modern vacuum tubing. One tap per tree significantly reduces the cost of tap installation. Plus, internal staining of the sapwood is also minimized using one tap per tree, preserving more quality sapwood for future years.

**Place taps opposite each other, preferably at different heights, so they won’t compete for the same sap

The written and graphic content in these pages was originally created by Todd Leuty (previous Agroforestry Specialist), and edited by Jenny Liu (Maple, Tree Nut, and Agroforestry Specialist).