Why Maple Syrup is in Danger (Video)

By Jon Schwedler, The Nature Conservancy

Most people know that America’s forests clean our air and provide water (for example, half the nation’s water supply comes from forests).

But besides these life-giving services, healthy forests also allow Americans to make a living. And most of these folks aren’t the Paul Bunyan lumberjack types of yore; these are workers in the hospitality, retail, recreation, construction, and energy businesses. They’re even maple syrup farmers, like David Marvin, with the Vermont Maple Sugar Company.

Can you imagine a pancake breakfast without maple syrup? It might surprise you to know that maple sugar farmers are worried about the future of maple trees, which are at risk from the dual threats of Asian longhorned beetle and climate change.

Marvin started sugaring in his backyard at home he was 11, and he’s been full time making a living from sugaring since the ’70s.  He says a healthy forest is essential to his business.

“As a forester and landowner and as a sugar maker I worry about any threat,” he said. “Recently I am more concerned about the dramatic events we’ve been seeing, two years in a row of forest tent caterpillar outbreaks, last year Tropical Storm Irene, ten years ago Hurricane Floyd, and two years before that the ice storm. These dramatic events sometimes make me go to the woods with a heavy heart.”

He says Asian longhorned beetle is another concern, since it prefers maple to any other species.

While these threats are a concern, the public has the potential to contain them. We can all help in small ways, whether it is conserving energy, not moving firewood even if it just a few miles, and planting responsibly in our gardens.

“Individually it is about awareness to make sure people understand their actions do make a difference for good or ill,” Marvin said. “We all have to take our own responsibility.”

The Nature Conservancy’s first action 60 years ago was conserving a forest in New York. Today, thanks to the generous support of people like you, we work with thousands of people across the country to restore America’s forests so they can continue to benefit people, water, and wildlife.

Watch our video to learn more about how you can help keep forests healthy with maple syrup on your breakfast table!

Jon Schwedler is communications manager for The Nature Conservancy’s Restoring America’s Forests program. For the past 14 years, Jon has worked on forest conservation efforts in Maryland, Virginia, Montana, New Mexico and California.

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Warren Webber
Warren Webber2 years ago

Live long and prosper!

Dale Overall

Just added maple syrup to my dessert of sliced strawberries, blueberries, whipping cream and a touch of ginger ale. Yes, very decadent but had a stressful and long day and the maple syrup added such a delight to this dessert. Just love maple syrup!

Yes, I remember those invading tent caterpillars in Ontario, so many of them in my childhood. Still see those "tents" around but not in huge numbers as mentioned by a commenter.

One made comments about the beetle being from China, going on about how do people feel about buying cheap Chinese imports now as the insect arrived via shipping crates? Is this comment really necessary? Since a number of companies that closed up shop to set up in China have American addresses, blame corporate greed in taking jobs away finding cheaper labour markets.

The Southern Pine Beetle has gotten to Maine...will he be sending down the Union Army? Took a look at "Bark And Wood Boring Beetles Of The World"...with a heading "The Atlas Of Forest Insect Pests." Oh, oh!

Dale Overall

I will happily continue with Canadian maple syrup as it is tasty and delightful. Sadly maple syrup season got shortened with the warmer weather. The same warm weather affected a lot of the American maple syrup as well.

There are some against the seal hunt who want to boycott this or that and in the arctic seal hunting is still done by aboriginal people under a quota system. Hunting seal pups with white coats is now illegal.

Dale Overall

Hopefully the insects that threaten maple trees will not be a major problem in the future as so many trees have been decimated by non native species such as the Emerald Ash Borer for ash trees. Maple syrup, the real organic syrup is wonderful compared to all the manufactured syrups on the market. It is more expensive than others as it takes a lot of sap boiled down to produce small amounts of maple syrup.

Had mentioned the seal hunt earlier below in response to a person commenting about boycotting Canadian maple syrup because of the seal hunt (Canada producing 85 per cent of the world's maple syrup) I was discussing the hunt done by Native people who use all of the seal (meat) for families. Some people protesting the hunt still eat beef and chicken. Not talking about the fur aspect of it but the arctic aspect where communities rely on seal meat for food in isolated areas.

Dale Overall

Being Canadian the thought of less maple syrup leaves me cold! Our national flag no less, maple, maple, maple! Less syrup this season as it was so warm that the trees were not happy and produced less than usual. My fridge still has a bottle of syrup inside ready and waiting to be added to a variety of things!

Traumatized, I am off to the fridge to pet my bottle of maple syrup and tell it comforting things, add a handful of snow to its glassy cover telling it that things will improve over time. Comfort food needs to be reassured and told that it is loved and appreciated!

Then for extra solace I will pet the cat who owns me and hear her reassuring purrs.

Debra G.
Debra G5 years ago

Globalization will do wonders to "small" the Earth. The faster we travel, the faster invaders hitch hike into our country, and into our lives, for good or ill. Generally for ill. No more invasive species in the gardens, and more garden plots to supply our food sounds like a good plan to start.

Terry Vanderbush
Terry V5 years ago

Mother Nature was perfect if left alone. Humans are DESTROYING the earth faster each and every day.
Thanks for the article and the "heads up"

Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton5 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal G5 years ago

Bad agricultural habits and contamination.

Robin M.
Robin M5 years ago