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How to Tap Birch Trees

By Melissa Lewis ; Updated September 21, 2017
Tap birch trees that are at least 10 inches in diameter.

Maple trees are not the only trees that are harvested for their sap. Other trees, such as birch, are tapped and the sap is collected so it can be made into syrup. In fact, golden and black birch trees have a wintergreen flavor that many people prefer. White birches are also harvested for their sap. Since the sugar content of birch sap is 33 percent less than that of maple sap, it takes more sap than maples to make one gallon of birch syrup: about 100 gallons.

Find a birch tree that is at least 10 inches in diameter. This is a sufficient size for one tap. For every additional 5 inches of diameter, you can tap the tree one more time.

Wait for the right time to tap your birch tree. The only time you can collect its sap is in the three to four weeks prior to the first leaf bud growth. This typically occurs in the spring, when snow begins to melt and daytime temperatures begin to reach above freezing. After the leaves begin to bud, the sap is cloudy and tastes bad.

Drill a hole into your tree that is about 2 to 4 feet above the ground. Use a 7/16- or 5/16-inch drill bit that matches the specifications on your spout. Drill at a slightly upward angle and drill about 1 ½ to 3 inches deep, depending on the girth of your tree. Do not drill in the same spot twice.

Insert the spout into the hole and lightly tap it in with a hammer, if necessary. Attach the collection bucket or collection bag to the hook on the spout. A collection bucket should be covered with plastic or metal to keep debris and water from mixing in with the sap.

Collect the sap each day in the afternoon. If the sap does not flow within a week, you may have tapped the tree too early. Sometimes the tree then seals the hole and no sap will come out, in which case you may have to tap a new spot on the same tree. After you have finished collecting sap, remove the tap and the tree will heal itself.

 

Things You Will Need

  • Drill
  • Spout
  • Collection container

Tips

  • If desired, purchase a prepackaged tree sap kit, which includes the spout and collection bucket or bag.
  • Alternatively, use products you have at home, such as a ½-inch plastic pipe connector (into a 7/16-inch hole) and a gallon milk jug (strapped onto the tree with a luggage strap).

About the Author

 

Melissa Lewis is a former elementary classroom teacher and media specialist. She has also written for various online publications. Lewis holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Maryland Baltimore County.