Producer: Warm February temps mean less maple syrup

maple syrup, Maple Hills Sugar Bush
Sap is collected for syrup production at Maple Hills Sugar Bush in Cascade Township. (Feb. 28, 2017)


CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The warm weather Michigan has been experiencing lately is threatening syrup production, shorting the season and cutting sweetness, producers say.

David Theule, who owns Maple Hills Sugar Bush east of Grand Rapids, said the sap is still flowing, but will stop if it gets warmer.

“When we hit 70  degrees, that’s about it and we did hit 65 the other day and it did damage the trees that we had already tapped very early,” Theule, who has been making maple syrup for about 45 years, told 24 Hour News 8 on Tuesday.

He explained that the warm weather makes the trees bud and the budding stops sap production.

“I was worried,” he said of the unusually warm February.

maple syrup, Maple Hills Sugar Bush
Sap is collected for syrup production at Maple Hills Sugar Bush in Cascade Township. (Feb. 28, 2017)

The trees need cold nights and warm days to allow the release of the sap. West Michigan temperatures have dropped again, so there is still sap, but it’s not as sugary. The tree sap Theule collects is usually 2 percent sugar, but it’s currently around 1 percent.

“I just have to put more wood in the fire and boil longer,” he said.

The longer the sap is boiled down — the process used to make maple syrup — the sweeter it becomes.

Theule can deal with the bitterness, but he can’t create more sap. During a normal season, his farm produces about a quart of syrup per tap, but this year he expects to make about half that — a pint — per tap.

Theule thinks he will still make money this syrup season — just not as much as he had hoped.

“It’s still worth it,” he said.