About 100 years ago, Palm Beach was introduced to the “Red Bug.” What was it?
- The brilliant Red Lily Beetle, which could be found on the underside of coconut palm fronds. Not a native insect, the beetle arrived on a steamer of fresh produce from Central America and wasn’t eradicated for decades.
- Sunburn. The northerners who patronized the first Palm Beach resorts often failed to protect their oh-so-fair skin from the southern sun. When ladies were unable to appear at dinner or tea because of sunburn, they sent their regrets by saying they’d “caught a touch of the Red Bug.”
- The Briggs & Stratton Flyer. Getting around the island by “wheelchair” (wicker conveyances powered by hotel employees) was dull. Enter the Red Bug, a little go-cart that let brave motoring enthusiasts zip around at 20-25 mph.
- Sweetened palm fruit, a local delicacy. Sold in the lobby of the Royal Poinciana Hotel, the red seeds were a particular (and particularly odd) part of the courting ritual of the young wealthies. Apparently, buying a cone of seeds and presenting them to a young woman’s mother was the island way for a man to declare himself a suitor.
Answer: 3. From 1919-1921, the little “Red Bugs” were all the rage. Selling for about $190, they were an odd little marriage of a low buckboard and early automobile. The Red Bug had a 1- or 2-horsepower engine and a brake… on one wheel. Not only did the swells motor along the trails from hotel to club and back again, they decorated them and staged parades and races.