One of my favorite hobbies was when I kept honey bees. As much as I like honey, I always wished my bees produced maple syrup! I love maple syrup. As an arborist, I really appreciate a sustainable sugaring operation, including those that sugar their maple trees as a hobby. Proper tapping of healthy Sugar maples is sustainable, and new, progressive methods of tapping increase production while reducing injury to the tree.
Unfortunately, in the urban (or urbanized) landscape, mature trees struggle, especially Sugar maples. Competition with the turf, soil compaction, extreme variations in soil temperature and moisture are rarely found in the forest, and these stress factors create very challenging situations for the trees and those caring for them. Much of what arborists do is to create a micro-environment for urbanized trees that mimics what happens in the forest.
Should one tap their backyard Sugar maples? Maybe and maybe not! Is the tree healthy? Does the tree show signs of decay in the main stem (common in urban trees)? Has the soil around the tree been compacted or the roots cut by construction? Every hole drilled into the trunk of the tree is an injury that the tree needs to overcome. What is an insignificant injury to the cambial zone of a healthy tree may be the tipping point in a struggling tree. This is why most towns and campuses won’t allow tapping of their maple trees.
I’ll help make the decision easy. If the Sugar maple tree near your house or within the maintained landscape is superfluous, tap it. If you would really miss the aesthetic contributions of that tree – don’t tap it. Best, tap the trees on the back 40.