Spatial and temporal variation in ecological parameters selects for plastic responses to prevailing conditions. Males of web spiders have been shown to adjust developmental decisions to cues that relate to the degree of competition from other males. Here, we explore experimentally whether males of the spider Nephila senegalensis base behavioural decisions in the context of mate choice and sperm allocation to the presence of cues of a rival and to their own competitive dominance. Large and small males were offered a simultaneous choice between two penultimate instar females that varied in quality and in whether they were previously visited by a rival male. Large and small males avoided webs visited by a previous male, and this preference overrode differences in female quality. In a second experiment, males were assigned to copulate with a virgin female whose web was either previously visited by a rival male or not. We found substantial variation in male sperm allocation, but this variation was not related to our treatment. Our experiments demonstrate that males notice silk cues left behind by rival males on a female’s web and that they can utilize these cues in relation to decisions over whether to visit a web, but not in relation to sperm allocation.