<Life cover, September 19, 1901
Some of the little information there is to be found on Gus Dirks is conflicting. He was the older brother of the better-known Rudolph Dirks, though he was born two years after him. He either followed or led his brother to New York from Chicago.
Soon after his arrival in New York his drawings began appearing in Puck, Judge and Life. His work fell into a curious cartoon sub-genre, a fantasy view of the insect world, that seems to have been popular at the turn of the last century. Albert Blashfield and Harrison Cady also mined this territory. Dirks' cartoons, particularly for Judge, which allowed him to use color, were very popular and brought him to the attention of the Hearst syndicate, where he created the "Latest News from Bugville" strip.
Sometime in June of 1902, at the age of 23, Gus Dirks took his own life. The only mention of this I've been able to find is a small comment from the June 13, 1902 edition of the Los Angeles Times:
Gus Dirks, the brilliant young artist, whose work is familiar to American magazine and newspaper readers, worked himself to the suicide point and lies dead in the great metropolis. The strenuous life these days is wearing on the young and old alike.
I don't know if there was ever any mention of this made in Life itself; the issues I have from 1902 run only through June 26th. That issue has two Dirks drawings in it, but there is no mention of him or his death in the text of the magazine.
All of the following drawings are from that first half of 1902. Unless Life kept a large inventory, this is likely the very last work he did for the magazine.
Updated 8/01 to correct some text and add two more drawings.