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How to Use Droplines

maple-tapping-droplines-istock.jpgAfter a few seasons of tromping from tree to tree, every sugarmaker starts to think about connecting all these lines into one main bucket. Wouldn’t that be a huge timesaver? It is and that’s why tubing systems are becoming the first choice of most expert sugarmakers and this article will give you a little primer on using droplines, mainlines, and large storage tanks (also called an Aerial Tubing System). If you’re serious about implementing one of these systems, we highly recommend visiting one of the helpful Extension Service sites listed at the end of this article (more can also be found on our “Resources” tab). These really smart folks have done the research and offer detailed instructions for setting up, maintaining, and getting the most out an aerial tubing system. Don’t forget to check with your local Extension Service, too, or stop by another sugarmaker in your area and ask questions. Most folks love to show off their operation! The best one we’ve found is through Penn State, click here to visit.

Typical System Parts

(You can create a smaller version with three or four trees that would use droplines connected to a larger line that ends at a central bucket.)

Standard spiles

Droplines – tubing that connects to the spiles and runs to the laterals

Laterals tubing – this part of the system connects multiple trees to the mainline (Penn State recommends no more than 10 tree per lateral). The laterals are stretched from tree to tree to create a tight structure and then connected to each dropline through a special tee connector.

Mainline (often called conduit) – typically larger than the tubing because it will carry sap from multiple trees. Laterals feed sap into the mainline which runs through the sugarbush to the storage tank.

Large storage tank – placed at the end of the mainlines to collect all the sap. Preferably this tank is near your sugar shack where it can be further run into your filtering and cooking areas.

Most Important Rule of Using a Multiple Line System: The overall flow of these systems must be downhill because you are creating a gravity system to pull the sap through long stretches of tubing. If parts of the tubing sag or dip, sap flow will decrease. Sags in the line also can cause bacterial growth if sap is left sitting in the tubing. Many large scale producers also incorporate a vacuum system to keep sap flowing.

After you’ve set up your system, don’t be afraid to tweak it. Maybe a line needs to be shortened a bit or maybe you need to set up a collection bucket midway through your planned route. As with all sugarmaking, trial and error creates the best product!

This great story of the Fideldy family out of northern Minnesota highlights how installing an inline system upped their production and helped grow their family business. (

Find More Info Here

Penn State Extension Services at:

University of Vermont at:

Cornell University Cooperative Extension at:

University of Minnesota Extension Service at:

University of Maine at: