The start of maple sugaring season varies each year depending upon two important variables: weather and location.
The season typically runs from January to April, and sap can run for several periods during these four months. In the 2017 season, warmer weather here in Connecticut started the season off early in January and ran through March. We had above average temps by the third week of February which resulted in a crazy sap flow – more than we could keep up with!
By mid-March the weather warmed up so quickly that the buds on the maple trees started to sprout, and that marked the end of the sap collection for us. Even though temperatures dropped again for a few weeks in April causing sap flow, it was not collectable because the buds had already sprouted.
Once the buds sprout, the tree begins to produce nutrients that spur leaf growth – yet it can be tasted in the sap and is not pleasant. It’s nature’s way of letting us know the season is over. We refer to that as the sap tasting “buddy”.
It’s pretty common in recent years here in Connecticut to have an early start to the season, so we have been tapping in mid-January due to warm weather patterns. However, January 2018 started out with historically cold temperatures below zero, and the thaw did not come until later towards the end of the month. Timing when to tap your trees is a balance of looking at your current week of temperatures, while looking closely at the 10-day forecast in your area.
If you’re located further North such as up state New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine or in the Midwest such as Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota or Iowa where weather and temperatures are typically colder, your tapping may not begin until February. The season lasts well into April up north in states like Vermont and New Hampshire as it stays colder much later into April.
States located farther South such as Virginia, Tennessee, Maryland, New Jersey and Kentucky may find that their season starts earlier and ends earlier than those of us located in New England. It would not be uncommon for people tapping in those states to end their season in mid to late March as the weather warms up and stays warm.
To read more on when to tap your maple trees, see our other posts here.