• A&E's "Billy the Exterminator" follows William 'Billy' Bretherton, an entomologist and pest control expert.
• Bretherton has a history of military and pest control, having appeared in the reality TV series "Dirty Jobs."
• Bretherton has an unconventional sense of style, consisting of goth-like black clothing and big silver jewelry.
• In April 2012, Bretherton and his wife were arrested for consuming synthetic marijuana.
• Bretherton's career was affected by his arrest, but he returned to the public eye in 201• In 2016, he starred in "Billy Goes North," and in 2020, he joined his brother Ricky's YouTube channel.
In 2009 the A&E network wowed the world by introducing “Billy the Exterminator,” which was previously known as “The Exterminators.” This American reality TV show follows the daily professional life of William ‘Billy’ Bretherton – a curiously dressed entomologist and pest control expert who takes great pride in owning Vexcon Animal and Pest Control, situated in Benton, Louisiana.
The company caters to the entire Shreveport-Bossier metropolitan area, where Bretherton and his team have established a reputation for excellence in their field, especially in handling tricky pest control issues that many competitors shy away from.
Being a former Senior Airman in the United States Air Force, Bretherton has a long and illustrious career in both the military and pest control, having previously appeared in the popular reality TV series entitled “Dirty Jobs,” in the first season’s episode “Vexcon,” and the second season’s episode “Termite Controller.”
In both “Dirty Jobs” and “Billy the Exterminator,” Bretherton is renowned for his unconventional sense of style, consisting of goth-like black clothing, often made of leather, and decorated with big silver jewelry, steel studs, and spikes in different patterns.
That said, the show’s cast members are not limited to Bretherton alone. Many members of his family, such as his parents, ‘Big’ Bill and Donnie, his brother Ricky, and various other employees have frequently appeared on the screen.
However, the show’s cast includes more than just Bretherton. Many members of his family, including his parents ‘Big’ Bill and Donnie, his brother Ricky, and other employees, frequently appear on the show. While Donnie Bretherton works as Vexcon’s dispatcher and is rarely on-site, her organizational skills are critical to the company’s smooth operation. Pam, Ricky’s ex-wife, left during the first season’s production, but the team’s effectiveness and the show’s popularity were not affected.
Bretherton is a strong proponent of natural pest control techniques and prefers to relocate captured animals whenever possible. He is always eager to share his knowledge of pests, their preferred habitats, and the diseases they carry, often using their Latin names to explain.
For example, in one episode, Ricky Bretherton revealed that he had been allergic to bee and wasp stings, but the allergy had disappeared as of 2015, providing viewers with an intriguing and useful fact.
Bretherton’s admirable dedication to what he does has its roots in his military career. At 19 years old Billy joined the United States Air Force, hoping to pursue a career in law enforcement. However, his entrance exam revealed a natural aptitude for biology, leading to him studying both biology and entomology. Bretherton’s career as an exterminator took off while he was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in North Las Vegas, Nevada.
Bursting at the seams with talent and hard work as both a biologist and showman, Billy seemed to be well on the way to a life of permanent glitz and ever increasing fame, but disaster struck out of nowhere three years later, leaving many fans disgruntled to this day.
The extermination of a TV series
In April 2012 Billy’s friends, family, colleagues and fans all woke up to shocking news. The TV star and his wife were having a casual stay at one of Bossier City’s hotel rooms in Louisiana when a hang-up 911 call originated from their location, and it’s still unknown who picked up the phone and why.
As per the procedure, the authorities arrived at the location as soon as possible, which was pretty much the last thing Billy and his wife expected to happen. It turned out that they were consuming synthetic marijuana with the aid of a few items meant to facilitate smoking it, both of which are illegal to own in that US state.
They were immediately arrested and taken to the station, at which point they posted $6,000 bail each, $5,000 of which was for illegal possession of marijuana, and $1,000 for illegal possession of drug paraphernalia.
With the case against them being airtight, the couple pleaded guilty to both charges without even trying for a legal battle against the state. Billy was ordered to either serve 60 days in county jail or pay a $500 fine, as well as complete four days of eight-hour-long community service, and attend substance abuse evaluation.
The final demand was probably the most difficult for Billy, as it is for any frequent drug consumer – staying away from alcohol and other narcotics. He was to be subjected to random drug tests for a year, which, if failed, would land him back in the courtroom with another strong case to fend off.
With hindsight it looks like the star managed to do just that, and stayed clean for at least the period ordained by the judge. While it may appear as though everything ended up fine for Billy, that’s far from the truth, since news of this bust had far-reaching consequences that would span the rest of his career.
The fifth season of “Billy the Exterminator” was to begin filming at that time, and it was quite fortunate for Billy that A&E stayed true to their contract and went through with what was agreed, but they decided not to proceed with further collaboration after the following season, ending the show permanently after season six’s release in late 2012.
Seeing as no other production house wanted to risk their reputation by taking on someone with a drug-related conviction on their resume, Billy was left to find another source of income away from the limelight. Even though he still had Vexcon, the business that started it all, he abandoned that too and moved to Illinois.
Life after the spotlight
It is unknown how exactly Billy made his living without an enterprise to speak of, but the fans were elated when he finally managed to return to the public eye in the latter half of 2015, at which point his brother Ricky began hosting the series entitled “Vexcon The Exterminators” on YouTube.
This was actually a great idea to move forward, as it provided Billy with a platform to attract viewers that came without the added worry of a corporate overlord who would seek to distance himself from minor drug-related offenses. Still, the more famous Bretherton refused to participate for unknown reasons, and kept out of the limelight even then.
Unlike “Billy The Exterminator,” this serious had a much greater focus on the species of animal that the exterminator was dealing with, rather than the extermination process itself. More often than not, Ricky would actually visit animal shelters and exterminate fleas and other harmful insects so as to help the animals live in more sanitary conditions.
— WAFB (@WAFB) May 1, 2013
In “Vexcon The Exterminators – Web Series (Episode 5: Cats),” Ricky said ‘The Shreveport animal shelter wants to make sure all of their cats are safe and protected, and one key ingredient of that is flea control.’ This time, like most others, the brothers were offering their services completely free of charge.
More often than not, animals in shelters come with their own issues that aren’t always properly dealt with, which especially refers to the many different kinds of fleas that can be picked up anywhere outside.
To that end, Ricky explained ‘The staff of the Shreveport animal shelter wants to make sure this is a flea-free zone. Whenever they get a new stray, or perhaps a situation of abuse, the animal may already have a flea problem. Well that’s where Vexcon comes in.’
As he further added, exterminating fleas on animals that groom themselves, especially cats, who do it most frequently among all domestic animals, can be a very risky endeavor. This is due to the fact that any toxic substance used to kill the insects can easily be brought into the animal’s mouth and subsequently ingested.
They chose to go the safest way and had all the cats put in pet carriers, removed from the rooms they were staying in, and taken to the washing area, where they would be treated with special anti-flea shampoo. In the meanwhile, Ricky would sterilize the rooms with a special chemical that instantly obliterates the larvae.
Episodes like these make up the bulk of the channel, whose most viewed video barely breached 100,000 views. The rest of the uploads all got below 50,000 views, most being around half that number. Billy’s lack of participation in the channel’s early days is the most likely factor for its low viewership.
The brief uptake
Much to everyone’s surprise, especially Billy’s, Corus Entertainment took note of the “Vexcon The Exterminators” videos and envisioned the potential it would have with the most famous exterminator in it, eventually approaching him in late 2015 about rebooting his show.
Hence, the series entitled “Billy Goes North” premiered on Canada’s CMT in November 2016, marking the grand return of “Billy The Exterminator” for all US audiences, where it was actually labeled as its seventh season and released under the same name.
The season’s 12 episodes lasted from 25 November 2016 to 3 May 2017, featuring all kinds of both dangerous and simply pesky animals and insects, including alligators, wasps, bats, and even turkeys. It seems to have achieved only moderate success, however, and no further production was planned in the following months.
Probably as a last ditch effort, Billy finally joined his brother Ricky on YouTube in 2020, who then booted up season two of “Vexcon The Exterminators.” One of the channel’s most successful videos from that era is entitled “Vexcon the Exterminators – Web Series / Season 2 (Racoon in Attic Insulation),” with almost 45,000 views.
These videos had a much higher production quality in comparison with the first season, with dramatic bits of loud music and explosive storytelling adapted according to the actual calls of real customers, and the narrative being centered around whatever animal they were dealing with next.
In the example video, Billy and another crew member are seen running around the business premises in search of a raccoon, which their new customer called about. They actually went to Bill’s father, who works the phone and is in charge of equipment, for instructions on where to get what they need for the job.
Billy then got serious, stating ‘All these houses that I walk in and walk out every day, pulling these animals out. I never really slept good because I knew all the feces in the attic is gonna continue to harm the family and there’s nobody available to clean it up, so that’s why we stepped in. We clean these messes up.’
He then revealed a little bit about what he was doing around 2015, stating ‘I got passionate about it starting about five years ago. I was doing a job in Chicago, and this attic had everything. I mean it had bats, raccoons, squirrels, possums, birds, I mean, it had, like, every kind of animal up there.’
While one would expect an exterminator to have a rather strong stomach, that scene and its stench proved too much even for Billy, who started vomiting on the spot. He said ‘I was really sick. And you gotta understand, man, I don’t get sick, so whatever made me sick that day was pretty serious up in that attic.’
For this reason, Billy and Ricky were extremely attentive to the attics of their customers in the second season of the web series, using all their accumulated knowledge to provide the best possible service while also testing out their penchant for adding over-the-top entertaining content into the videos.
However, even with Billy following along and having his signature presence plastered across every episode, the series failed to take off yet again, causing the channel to ultimately be scrapped in August 2020.
With Billy not being involved in any other publicly known project up until early 2023, it remains to be seen whether he will try to resurrect his career yet again. What’s definite at this point is that he has become an icon among millennials due to his distinct style and over-the-top dressing, with even a channel as big as penguinz0 (12.3 million subscribers) eagerly talking about him in the video entitled “Humanity’s Best Exterminator.”