Re: Getting off the "package treadmill"
Reputable package dealers will replace drone layers. Most times package producers are also queen producers.
And there is absolutely no reason for a package to struggle, no matter the weather. When installing a package, the first thing one should do is feed it! You feed it until it has at least 10 frames of drawn comb. Personally, I feed my package installations, or splits, until they either quit taking it, or have drawn two deeps of comb. that way I know they're well established before I have to worry about winter.
If one does a walk away split, you make your increase, without even the cost of a queen. But even then, I feed feed feed until the hive is built up. I want to give them every chance possible to succeed, and not stress them when I don't have to.
"If all you have is a hammer, the whole world is a nail." - A.H. Maslow