For unknown centuries humans have harvested this spring treat. But they weren't the first.
Since long before men rammed spiles into sugar maple bark, Red Squirrels have been making pre-spring rounds of these trees. They nip the bark, creating little grooves to start the sap dripping, and then move on to bite more bark. A day or two later, after the sap that flowed from the cuts has mostly evaporated, the rodents return to eat the sweet, sticky residue.
How do they know this cause-and-effect connection -- that a bite plus a wait yields food? The sap has barely any taste, yet these animals have learned to distill the watery fluid to its sweet essence -- squirrel-made maple syrup.Will pancakes and butter be next?