Queen viability low.....ok, here goes.
One, lets get the idea of poorly mated queens behind us. With few exceptions, it never comes down to a poorly mated queen. In fact, you would be hard pressed to really define what exactly is a poorly mated queen. Most attribute it to some idea of not enough sperm from mating only once or twice. But reality is, the queen has enough sperm after one mating to last her lifetime. Multiple matings, as bees dictate, has more to do with genetic diversity rather than needing more sperm. This is not to be confused with a quality assessment discussion of properly mated queens for commercial sale, thus defining a good operation or a poor operation, as seen with a certain amount of sperm. Indicating a good drone saturation etc.
Now for low queen viability.
Chemicals and pesticides: Many chemicals are detrimental to low queen viability. Probably the #1 chemical that has been studied and shown to effect queen performance is coumaphos. It is a wonder that bee supply places even still sell this crap! But as I said before, follow the money.
Add on the neonicotinoids, the recent addition of pesticides to combat stink bugs, emerald ash borer, west Nile virus, and other pests that the university extension, the EPA, and others (who many think are working for the bees....and what a joke that is!) and it's a wonder how our bees survive at all.
Comb age: How old is the comb in the hives and mating nucs being used by your friend? See the above comments. Old comb allows chemical buildup to reach levels that can impact queens.
Viral impacts: Queens are great carriers of most viruses in the hive. Throw in the new nosema, questionable weak genetics, a suppressed immune system (From chemicals, mites, etc.) and queen grafts, queen viability, and queen lifespan is affected. Blackened queen disease has been much higher in recent years, which indicated a larger problem than some really know.
Weak genetics: Yes, importation of Australian bees have been shut down. But the overall genetic pool to my opinion is as weak today as it has been in the past 20 years. Queen supercedure has been noted in packages for the past several years. Mass produced weak genetic queens have been a topic of discussion for years. And it affects all beekeepers.
I think weak queens is on par as CCD goes. A combination of factors just as seen with CCD, is also seen in queen rearing. Many items are impacting queen rearing. Is there are reasoning for 50-75% loss in states all across the northern states last year? Even counting CCD years, this past year has seen one of the highest winter kill rate ever. Yet, not much was made of it.
I think queen breeders need to go back and evaluate your entire operation. Use clean comb, don't baby weak genetics, and look at everything that could be impacting queen production. I spoke to many breeders this year, and yes, many had problem on some level this past year. Something has definitely changed.
As an industry, we could not of screwed up beekeeping too much more if we tried. And part of that is the average beekeepers inability to raise local stock, perpetuate your own queens, and rely on an industry that does questionable things. We have relied on mass produced, many time foreign queens, and have treated bees way too long in this country. Eventually it catches up to you. And I think we see it in many different ways. Bad queens is one of them.