Re: Suggestions on package failures?
The packages were from Iowa and the queens from California.
So, I'm reading this as 2 queenless packages from Iowa and then the 2 queens from California.
The queens were not inside the packages any time before installing? The bees had no chance to claim the queen before hiving? Most packages with queens have the queen in the package of bees at least an hour before they are hived and usually quite a bit longer time. This in conjuction with the below paragraph could have been an issue perhaps?
Your description of the ordeal makes me think there was a queen with the bees outside the hive, and the queen you bought inside the hive. Some times when making up packages a virgin queen or queen will slip by and get in the package as it was being made up. It would cause the situation you describe, but there could be other reasons as well. Best of luck to your next packages.
I've been keeping a few hives for the past 20-25 years, and no longer treatment free as I got tired of the losses.