Billy the ExterminatorNever thought I’d be cheering on an exterminator but A&E’s reality show Billy the Exterminator makes it easy. Billy Bretherton of Shreveport, Louisiana brings a rockstar cool and love for animals and the environment to a profession that has typically relied on poisoning humans, animals, and the earth. With his highlighted, spiked hair, sunglasses, black leather, silver studded wrist bands, and outgoing and friendly personality, Billy makes pest control attractive, fun, and soul-satisfying, if you can believe it.

A&E’s take on the show:

In this funny family docusoap about the zaniest pest removal company on the planet, we join Billy Bretherton and his family members as they are called to take care of Louisiana’s worst pest problems. And it’s a big business in the swamp-like state of Louisiana. Although there are numerous other pest control companies in the state, Vexcon is the only team that handles all types of animal removal. From tiny ants to giant snakes, Billy and his team have seen everything.”

Billy is well versed in pest control, having worked in the field of entomology with the U.S. Air Force in 1987, then training for 5 years with the industry’s leading entomologist and completing a two year correspondence course at Purdue University. He earned a masters certification for termite control at LSU and is now an Associate Certified Entomologist. He is an expert in the use of organics, non-chemical procedures & animal control. Billy founded the family owned, Louisiana-based pest control business VexCon and is joined on the show by his mama Donnie, his dad Big Bill, brother Ricky, and his wife Mary.

The reality show follows Billy and company on jobs that deal with wrangling all sorts of critters, from insects like fire ants, Mahogany wasps, Black Widow spiders, and bees to poisonous snakes, racoons, bats, wild turkeys, mice, beavers, possums, skunks, bobcats, armadillos, and alligators, to name a few. VexCon focuses on a humane trap-and-release approach using “Have a Heart” traps and they do not kill animals unless absolutely necessary, in which case they use only organic pesticides. Animals are released about 20 miles out into a forest or otherwise appropriate ecosystem.

From the beginning of the series, it’s clear that Billy is animal friendly and has a concern for the environment, as he shares that releasing animals that scavenge into the wild is great for the ecosystem. He’s always quick to explain the benefits of using humane and organic, non-toxic pest control techniques and products. For example, he uses silica gel for a major bee infestation which causes the insects to die from dessication – which is a physical death rather than a chemical death. Billy makes it cool to be kind with statements like “This is what makes being an exterminator gratifying. This is good stuff for the soul,” as he releases animals into their natural habitats.

VexCon logoThe show is as informative as it is entertaining, as Billy shares tips on tracking and trapping animals. When trying to locate bats inside a home, he looks for openings in the exterior roof line, and excrement and hairs on the ground below. When trapping most rodents he will use peanuts, as he says they have a stronger scent than most other nuts. Except in the case of rats, who happen to love cashews. What to do about a Black Widow spider infestation? Billy sprays them with VexCon’s mix of eugenol oils and fatty acids. Eugenol oils are extracted from the essential oil that comes from botanicals like cinnamon, bay, and especially clove and although he claims they are organic and non-toxic, like other essential oils, they may not be appropriate for those with chemical sensitivities, asthma, or other respiratory conditions. In addition to spraying the spider webs with organic insecticide, he recommends putting shades on windows and changing exterior lights from white to yellow to reduce flying insect activity outside the home, which the spiders are attracted to.

Our concern with the show is that Billy does promote organic pesticides as safe and non-toxic to humans when in fact, some organic pesticides like pyrethrins made from Chrysanthemum flowers are quite toxic, especially to those with existing health conditions like reactive airway disease (RAD) and chemical sensitivities. We caution viewers not to equate “organic” with “safe” and to always do your own research and tests with any product intended to kill insect or animal life, especially if using indoors and/or around small children and pets. Read more about how pesticides damage humans and the toxicity of organic pesticides. Nonetheless, we support the show’s main focus on humane trapping and releasing of animals into their natural environments. Bravo for A&E!

It’s exciting to see a major cable television channel promoting an extermination company that is good for animals, people, and the planet. Although they do not actively seem to market the green aspect of the company and instead focus on the zany personalities and Heavy Metal attire of the VexCon family, we’re hoping that Billy and company will make the humane trap-and-release pest control approach popular and increase consumer demand for organic and non-toxic products. Go Team VexCon!!

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