Re: What is the really critical mating period?
Though I don't claim to have a great deal of expertise in this, it stands to reason that the answer to your question is that the only evidence that you can use to assess a newly mated queen is her laying pattern. It also stands to reason that variability in mating conditions (primarily weather and drone supply) mean that all matings are not equal and may result in queens that may have a shorter useful life.
"Ve are too soon olt und too late schmart."- A nameless German philosopher