Early Start to Maple Syrup Season Raises Concerns

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CRANESVILLE, Pa. (Erie News Now) — It’s a busy day at Triple Creek Maple in Cranesville, Pa. For the first time this year, owner Gary Bilek is boiling syrup, and he can’t help but be excited.

“It’s kind of a special day when you finally get a chance to get everything put together and we get a chance to harvest some maple syrup,” he said.

But an early February harvest is unusual, weeks or even a month ahead of schedule.

“It’s as early as we have ever tapped,” Bilek said.

In years past, February was often our coldest month. Now, temperatures can reach 50 degrees, and the sun shines for days in a row.

“Even if we, at this time of year, had had this warm spell, normally, we would be saying, ‘It’s going to get cold next week, and we will be frozen for two or three weeks yet. There’s no reason to tap,'” Bilek said. “But that’s not true anymore.”

That leaves farmers guessing, trying to time their taps in an ever-shortening window.

Syrup production relies on cold nights and warm days. As each day warms up, sap flows through the tree and flows out of taps. Then, as the day cools off at night, the sap sinks back down before the cycle repeats. In recent years, warm days haven’t been a problem, but cold nights, however have been harder to come by.”

“Right now, they are freezing,” Bilek said the cold nights. “We’re fine. But the fear is that next month, we’re not going to have the freezing nights, and we’re going to have a very short season.”

So as the season gets underway, Bilek has an eye on the future.

Ever the scientist, the retired teacher sees temperatures trending warmer, a potential problem in years to come.

“I am really concerned about the future of maple in this area,” Bilek said. “I’m not by any means saying we will be out of business in the next five or 10 years. But if we’re talking 25 or 30 years, it’s possible.”


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