Mr Armitage has grown to appreciate the spiders, even though they tend to bite.(ABC Rural: Brandon Long)
Photo: Brandon Long, ABC Rural

Now reading via ABC Rural: Cotton farms crawling with spiders and frogs as industry cleans up its act


"Stuart Armitage is getting bitten by spiders more and more as the years go on, but he doesn't mind — it's a small price to pay for progress at his Queensland cotton farm.

"Most of us can show a few spider bites after cleaning the picker down at night, but it's always a good sign," he says.

Prior to 1996 Mr Armitage would have had a hard time finding a spider in his paddocks or on many other Australian cotton farms.

That is because farmers would spray insecticides multiple times a season to kill heliothis, or cotton bollworm, which is the crop's major yield-reducing pest.

The pesticide killed other life forms too, but with the invention of insect-resistant, genetically modified cotton – Bt cotton – the plant was able to produce a protein to kill the worm and spraying was significantly reduced.

Now the thousands of white bolls at his farm at Cecil Plains, 80 kilometres west of Toowoomba, are swarming with spiders of many sizes and colours and keeping other damaging insects in check."

> An article from ABC reporter Brandon Long about the cotton industry's Fourth Environmental Assessment. Read the article in full here.