My 5 Days With Billy The Exterminator

It’s always great for me to watch another professional in the craft I love work his or her magic. Their skill and expertise is one thing but what impresses me the most is the confidence they have in their ability to get the job done even if it has complex factors that would send any rookie running for the phone to call in for help. Recently I had a chance to spend an entire week with just such a confident technician and I actually learned quite a bit.

Billy Bretherton otherwise known as Billy The Exterminator is the man behind Vexcon, an exterminating company in Louisiana. He entered the bug world while in the Air Force and continued on with his studies through Purdue and LSU Universities and eventually became a Associate Certified Entomologist as well as achieving a Masters certification for termite control. His company was started in 1996 but Billy’s notoriety didn’t really come until he was chosen to be a feature story on the hit show Dirty Jobs. I remember this caused a little bit of a stir in the pest control community because of the way Billy and his technicians dressed. Instead of the sharp pressed uniform they wore shiny skull belt buckles with chains dangling freely and skull and crossbones shirts. Some even criticized his spraying techniques when he was hosing down some german roaches or jacking up a house that had severe termite damage. I ‘m sure he heard some of the critiques and that probably didn’t sit well for a guy who had worked so hard to come up through the ranks. (literally) There was even the comparisons between him and Mike Masterson, owner of Isotech and star of the mega hit series, “The Verminators.” Mike is the epitome of a stereotypical professional and the image that most bug guys preferred. I’m sure that had to hurt a little but in the end, Billy stuck to who he was and perhaps even went a little further with his now longer hair and spiked lapels and chrome tipped boots. This paid off for Vexcon and Billy as he too was awarded a show of his own on A&E known simply as “Billy The Exterminator” which is now also a big hit on the tube.

Now Billy didn’t know I was dropping by but he always welcomed me in each day I came. I’d show up every afternoon and ride along for about 3 hours in his nice Tundra truck while he got the calls for all sorts of different pest and critter problems. I was with him on his rat job of an animal rescue shelter where he bagged over 100 rats. The ladies there had no idea the problem was so bad and really were alarmed when they found out that most of their buildings electrical wiring was 1/2 chewed through by the rodents and the fire danger was huge. I remember the ladies screaming when he tracked down live rats in a plastic tub but how thankful they were when after the job was done he donated one years service to the shelter.

On the 3rd day Billy got the call for a snake in a tattoo parlor and I was right there with him. His brother Rick joined us for this one but since I was just a guest I simply watched. Rick is quite the guy as well and pretty brave, they both hunted that thing down and worked like a team to catch this 6 footer that would have sent anybody else running for the exits. They also paired up for a client who was infested with snakes to the point the kids couldn’t play in the back yard without fear of getting bitten. Prancing through the tall grass and debris left by recent storms they narrowed it down to a lone wood pile which they unceremoniously burned. Man did that drive out the biggest snake I’ve ever seen. A monster rattlesnake came out of that pile and he was mad. The two wrangled the beast for quite awhile until they got it in the bucket but I just watched and learned from my secure vantage point and was glad I didn’t have to do a thing but view the spectacle.

I learned a lot from my week with Billy, we went on so many jobs and saw some crazy things. There were lots of raccoon calls, spiders, snakes, opossums, rats, turkeys and even a bobcat. All handled with care and those that didn’t make it were buried with dignity by a saddened and humbled man. I don’t normally get into animal control and my views are more along the lines of ‘extermination’ but Billy tries to save every warm blooded pest he can. It was interesting as well to learn about some of his own concoctions which naturally took care of pests. Garlic sprays to repel snakes and an organic mixture which sapped the energy right out of the dreaded black widow and suggestions galore of how homeowners can avoid having these types of problems in the first place. I’m not much for the ‘green and organic’ movement but if more people would approach it in this manner I might be more inclined to listen.

There’s a lot more to Billy than meets the eye but if all you look at is his stainless steel apparel and narrow sunglasses you just might miss it. My first impressions were founded on the same Dirty Jobs episode you watched years ago and I must admit I thought his approach was not one I would ever emulate. However, after my week with him one on one I’ve come to a whole different conclusion. His business is a lot like mine and thousands of others as he and his family strive to grow and make it in this highly competitive world.

Billy has that confidence that only a seasoned professional exudes and from here on out the skies the limit on where he and his company may go. While I’m sure not many pest companies will follow his exact business model you can never go wrong with being passionate about what you’re doing in the way you want to get it done. Billy has proven this and in his way blazed a trail that others may follow albeit in their own modified way. I’m just thankful I was able to take time away from my work for a week to observe this guy firsthand and uninterrupted. For 3 hours a day I saw a great technician do his job and then I headed down to the beach to enjoy the rest of my vacation but looked forward to tomorrows marathon episodes of Billy The Exterminator on TV.

About The Bug Doctor

Jerry Schappert is a certified pest control operator and Associate Certified Entomologist with over two and a half decades of experience from birds to termites and everything in between. He started as a route technician and worked his way up to commercial/national accounts representative. Always learning in his craft he is familiar with rural pest services and big city control techniques. Jerry has owned and operated a successful pest control company since 1993 in Ocala,Florida. While his knowledge and practical application has benefitted his community Jerry wanted to impart his wisdom on a broader scale to help many more. Pestcemetery.com was born from that idea in 2007 and has been well received. It is the goal of this site to inform you with his keen insights and safely guide you through your pest control treatment needs.
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  • LaMantia Family

    Just watched the episode which aired on August 23, 2011 here in So. Cal. My family and I were moved that Billy did not charge the family who’s mother had been killed in an automobile accident (drunk driver). Billy is a good man. I am a new fan of the show.
    LaMantia Family of Norwalk, CA

  • Mimi

    I think this Billy guy needs too be arrested for hurting those inasent Anumals or get off the show they need too put one of those thing around his neck or what ever. Mimi

  • It’s really for the critters own good… Think of what might happen if Billy didn’t take em out. Not pretty once a homeowner breaks out a trap or gun.

  • He also (last season) gave a free year of rat control to an animal shelter that had a HUGE infestation. The ladies who owned and ran the facility were speechless & definitely needed the break. The rats had chewed so much of the electrical system wires that it was gonna take a huge chunk of change to fix. The structure was a real fire threat with bare wires everywhere…. Not sure if you can rent old episodes on netflix or not but that one you’d like I’m sure.

  • Tonya Byrum

    I cant believe they actually showed him killing a colony of bees. Does he not have a clue how important bees are to our survival?? DONT KILL THE BEES!!! THEY ARE VERY IMPORTANT TO OUR SURVIVAL!!!! Someone please educate this man…. A&E tv should really look into someone else to fill this dumb asses time slot. Thanks

  • I only caught part of that scene–didn’t he explain why he was doing it? He usually does.

  • Phil McCracken

    I think you need to take time and learn how to spell before you go on your protest rant.

  • Smsterner94

    Even though he frees most of the animals he catches? Maybe you should watch the show…

  • Don’t you hate when people want to comment on your grammar and not the damn blog?

    Awesome Billy piece.

    Pattie

  • Thank you Pattie,

    Your words of kindness far outweigh anything my detractors could come up with. It is for people like you why I write my blog. 🙂

  • I think she does watch- for about 10 minutes.  lol

  • Sunny

    If you actually watched more of his shows, you would see that he actually pulls out the honey and the nest and relocates the entire hive by way of a beekeeper.  It had to be very special circumstances that he would have eliminated them.  

  • Sunny

    What show did you watch because he even takes harmful and poisonous snakes and animals away to a safe area to be released where they can do no harm.    Of course, If you want them, he could always drop them off at your house.

  • Sunny

    Great article.  I have been watching every show that I can because I have picked up so much information from watching his shows.  He mentions so many things that I would never have thought of.  You were much braver than me to tag along with him.

  • Thank You but if you re-read the article you might be surprised at the ending. I’m not a ‘professional’ writer (just look at some comments below) so I’m sure it could have been done in a more clever way but like Billy- I’m good at killing bugs so I’ll be happy with that.

  • Kat_dehaven

    As soon as i saw the first Billy the Exterminator i was hooked now i can’t stop watching it i saw that Billy had a vexcon bag and i keep begging my mom to get it for me. Also i was writing a letter to him do any of you know where he lives like specificlly

  • I do not- but google Vexcon and at least you can find his office.

  • jake

    why isn’t billy the exterminator on tv anymore

  • I don’t know but it does seem fishy.

  • Mel

    Maybe, he has become ill from spraying all that natural stuff without wearing the proper ppe?

  • Hey-chrysanthemums have hurt no one! 😉

  • Saml75

    “Pest Control ROCKS!”  — you can’t get rocks in every location the pests are in, but try all you want to.

  • I remember how you felt about him, and I’m glad that he changed your perception. 

  • He can be infectious 😉

  • Kadee Taylor Humphrey

    I’m sorry I am just now finding this thread, but Billy IS a professional even if you don’t like his approach or how he dresses.  He is extremely good at what he does.  I’ve been watching the series, in Season 1 Episode 5- Gator Park Swarm,  he helped a woman with her “german roaches”  she’d been dealing with for over 20 years.  He was empathetic to her situation and didn’t judge her. 

    She outright asks if this (the pest treatment) is a one time thing. He  told her he’d be back in a few days to check back and do some additional treating and that she would need continued maintenance (“monthly to every three months”) to keep them from re-infesting.  He repeats this to the audience again after he leaves the first visit that she will need regular maintenance or she will get the roaches back. On his return trip to her home he said to the audience that “usually on these roach jobs you have to go out two, three, four times.  The mark of a good exterminator; if you see them out on these german roach re-checks you know he’s worth something. If he tells you I’m gonna knock these out in one visit; nobody can do that.”  So I’m really curious where you got your information that Billy  is telling people their roaches will be gone with one visit because that is the opposite of what he says and does on the show. I’ve seen nearly every episode of all three seasons. 

    Have you even watched the show?  Perhaps you should educate yourself more before you judge him and his methods and infer that he is not a professional.If I were in LA I would be a customer of Vexcon, but I live in FL.

  • Kadee Taylor Humphrey

    Hi Bug Doctor, really enjoyed this post!  What an amazing adventure to be able to tag along with Billy The Exterminator.  Something I admit I would really enjoy doing (from a distance) but I will have to be satisfied to watch the show instead.  All I would add to your post is  that Billy not only tries to save the warm blooded animals, but he also tries to save the cold-blooded ones too, even alligators (6 feet and under) and venomous snakes!    

    It is my favorite thing about Billy and his show is that he tries to save the animals instead of killing them, when in all honesty I am sure the latter would often be much easier than what he does to save some of the animals.

    My nine year old son turned me on to Billy The Exterminator and we have have been watching all three seasons together on Netflix.  I enjoy Billy’s unique style, his enthusiasm, his compassion towards his customer’s as well as the animals, and I appreciate how educational the show is.  My son and I have both learned a lot watching it.   I especially enjoyed the episode where he re-located a beehive from inside the wall of a woman’s home instead of exterminating it and explained how important honey bees are to the environment. I know not everyone will agree with his style or approach but I do hope they will at least invest in learning about his show and his intentions before criticizing his methods or implying he is not a professional.  I live in Florida (in the forest) and we live with the same pests that also plague Louisiana and I have found a lot of the information Billy has shared on the show to be invaluable to us in managing our daily lives co-existing with them. 

  • Kadee Taylor Humphrey

    Sorry one more thing I forgot to mention, the only thing that bothers me about Billy is that I don’t think he protects himself enough from the chemicals and bacteria he is encountering.  Thanks again!

  • Kadee Taylor Humphrey

    On A&E’s website it says there will be new episodes 2012 but doesn’t say when and nothing shows on the schedule yet.

  • Yeah, that bothers me a bit too.

  • I missed the bee moving episode- that would be interesting to see how he pulled that one off.

    (ps. you might want to read the ending of my article again- I think you might be surprised how I truly had my time with Billy)   –  I’m not the greatest writer  but I was ‘kind of’ going for that effect  😉

  • Robere44

    I don’t understand how anyone can do what he does for so long and still doesnt know his snakes. I’ve seen him identify a Cottonmouth as a Copperhead atleast twice. The a Banded Watersnake as a Yellowbelly watersnake. My gosh. I’d understand if it wasn’t his profession. How did this guy make it on tv? Living in Louisiana he has got to see many snakes but he still hasn’t learned to identify what they are. People watch this show and believe what he says as truth.  What a fraud.

  • Anonymous

    What is UP with Billy in 2012? He is a skinny stringy mess, never has a bee suit, sprays his own head (that’s new),  just about trashed a guy’s foyer…stuffed leaves in a hole (also new)…Good heavens–is the man on something?

  • Anonymous

    Two a’s — grammar.

  • Not sure why an article on a “Billy The Exterminator” of all things, attracts such grammar police. 😉  and not very good ones ! hahahaha
    Thanks for pointing that out

  • I understand he “forgot” it the first day but he did leave and come back–so did he forget it twice?  hmmmmm

  • I had the Banded Water Snake in my pool lanai last year. I didn’t take a lot of time to decipher the difference but then again– I leave most of that animal trapping biz to the pros….I’m a insect guy for the most part.  I’ll be watching for that though. One would think he’s have that aspect down cold.

  • Montario

    It’s easy to remember, remove the first letter (G)
    and the word spells the same forewards and backwards.
    :))
    As for Billy, I think he’s cool, has a good heart & is entertaining!
    He has to be a unique person to do all he does!

  • I’ll remember that! Now if I can only figure out the ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’ rule- I’ll be set.

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  • Daniel D. Dye

    I enjoyed the article, Jerry, though I’m still not a fan of Billy’s.  It’s not the way he dresses or conducts his business, it’s the miss information he sometimes gives, especially when it comes to snake ID.  If one going to handle snakes, venomous or non-venomous, they should invest some time to learn about the snakes in their area.  Not just identification, but also a little biology on the species…what they eat, habitat, etc.  How else will he be able to offer IPM recommendations without this knowledge?  It’s really not that much different than knowing the insect pest you’re attempting to control.
    Thanks again for the article.  I’ll try to catch some of the shows.
    Daniel

  • Excellent comment & I’ve heard this same view point from others. I don’t know my snakes very well so that would go over my head but on the bug side– he does tend to whip around the aerosols a bit to much especially with bees & wasps. I guess that’s what you do when you don’t have a bee suit. 😉 His “eugenol oil” approach is also a bit liberal and has the public DIYers going nuts for the stuff. Green, organic or whatever you call it, it does have a dark side which I also wrote about. I get asked about it a lot and people think they can willy nilly spray it ‘like Billy’ because it’s safe and natural. I wrote this article a few years ago while on vacation and although I applaud him on many fronts. I have a hard time with some things as well.
    ps.

    I think rumor has it there’ll be another season of shows but he may have been canceled as I don’t see any commercials for it anymore.

  • Dumuzid

    I can see what an exterminator from, say, New York goes through. After doing many unsanitary buildings, he looks to eliminate critters fair and square. How to blame him ? He has to move on quickly between tasks to fill his fridge. Depressing city settings sure doesn’t help to be “eco-friendly”. Somehow, spending time killing roaches or bugs narrows his mind. It’s like a number in equation is missing…

    Here comes the animal control aspect. They aren’t just a nuisance, they’re here for a reason. Bats are the best mosquito killers, and they were around way before insectisidal sprays, for instance. Rats are also everywhere, because there are men like us to waste food. With them around snakes are also on the prowl. Billy is clearly aware of it. It’s a part in a great everything, and disturbing it is dangerous. So then, his struggle will have likely no end. After him, the new generation workers of Vexcon will continue… He has realized the best thing ever: far to give up, he just surrendered to nature. Why trying to dominate it, why destructing biotopes and species for a few bucks ? Louisiana is the place of swamps and hurricanes, one can only get used to it. It is sure rough place to live in, but it also offers magnificient sceneries to look upon to. Likely, the missing number of equation is here: to find poetic charm in an otherwise dirty job. That sures enters into account in the will to protect environment, don’t you think ?

  • azbestpestcontrol

    Billy is a cool guy. I’ve spoke to him in the past and he is very passionate about his field of work. He definitely has a unique way of presenting himself. I have always felt that pest control would be an awesome tv show, way better than duck dynasty! http://abugguy.com

  • Tim,

    Wondering why Duck Dynasty doesn’t appeal to you? I checked out your link which you supplied. 😉 Seems like according to your own description of yourself this wouldn’t be the case… or at least you wouldn’t take the time out to single out this one show in a seemingly negative light. Just curious…